Sebastian Kvist

Photo of Sebastian Kvist

Sebastian Kvist

Associate Curator of Invertebrates

Area: Natural History, Biodiversity

Interests: Annelida (bristle worms, earthworms, leeches and their relatives)

Exhibitions & Galleries: Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity


PhD, Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History (2012)
MSc, University of Gothenburg, Sweden (2008)
BSc, University of Gothenburg, Sweden (2006)

I work on evolutionary biology and I’m interested in the forces that shape biodiversity and that drive evolution. My research focuses mainly on tackling questions regarding the diversity, phylogeny and distributions of representatives of Annelida, a rather large animal phylum with over 17,000 currently recognized species. This phylum includes representatives of three major groups – Polychaeta (bristle worms), Oligochaeta (earthworms and their relatives) and Hirudinea (leeches). Some species within the phylum are frequently used as bioindicators as their presence or absence (depending on the species) may suggest an unhealthy ecosystem, and others have been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. Although my research aims at understanding the full spectrum of evolutionary change within the phylum, one of my main topics of interest is the evolution of bloodfeeding in leeches as it pertains to the evolution and diversity of anticoagulation factors that are secreted into the feeding site and bacterial endosymbionts that supply the leeches with necessary nutrients, otherwise lacking form their strict hematophagous diet. I often apply a comparative approach to answering these questions and use several different strategies, from next generation sequencing and bioinformatics to alpha taxonomy and morphological studies, in order to unlock the secrets of annelid evolution and biodiversity.

An additional research interest of mine is the evolution of ribbon worms (phylum Nemertea), which are a group of soft-bodied, non-descript invertebrates that inhabit all major oceans, as well as freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. The morphological variation within this group is astonishing – its representatives range in size from less than 1mm to over 50m, making it the longest animal in the world. This disparity of morphological shapes has belied any morphological analyses of evolutionary relationships and put pressure on researchers to use molecular data to estimate the phylogeny.

Recent Publications

Year Publication
2016 Kvist, S.. "Does a global DNA barcoding gap exist in Annelida?." Mitochondrial DNA Part A, 27, 3, 2241-2252. Does a global DNA barcoding gap exist in Annelida?
2014 Kvist, S., C.E. Laumer, J. Junoy, and G. Giribet. "New insights into the phylogeny, systematics and DNA barcoding of Nemertea." Invertebrate Systematics, 28, 3, 287-308.


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