Debbie Wall-Palmer

Dr Debbie Wall-Palmer

The shelled heteropods (Atlantidae) are tiny (max. 14mm) gastropods living in the upper ocean. They are the only predatory calcifying holoplankton and will be amongst the first organisms to experience present and future ocean changes. How will they respond? And could they be useful bioindicators? During my Marie Skłodowska-Curie project POSEIDoN, I am using interdisciplinary techniques to investigate how past, present and future ocean changes affect these amazing swimming snails.


Calcareous plankton, biogeography, taxonomy, micropalaeontology, ocean acidification, changing oceans.

Dr Debbie Wall-Palmer

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow
Marine Evolution & Ecology

Shelled Heteropod Identification Portal


How do calcareous zooplankton respond to ocean changes?

Marine zooplankton provides a vital link in the ocean food web from primary production to larger predators. However, the upper ocean where zooplankton lives is close to the atmosphere/ocean boundary where CO2 dissolves into the ocean and direct warming occurs. This makes them vulnerable to ocean changes, including ocean acidification and ocean warming. How will the ecologically important zooplankton react to these changes? To answer this question we must start at the beginning, first investigating taxonomy, diversity and distribution. Calcareous plankton groups also have a fossil record offering us clues about how they responded to past ocean changes.

A plankton sample fresh from the Pacific Ocean
Shelled heteropod Atlanta californiensis


  • The phylogeny of the Atlantidae using multiple genes and the description of new species discovered.
  • The effects of ocean acidification upon atlantid heteropod shell calcification.
  • Investigating the potential use of atlantids as bioindicators for the past and future.


  • Wall-Palmer, D., Burridge, A.K., Goetze, E., Stokvis, F., Janssen, A.W., Mekkes, L., Moreno-Alcántara, M., Bednaršek, N., Schiøtte, T., Vinther Sørensen, M., Smart, C.W., Peijnenburg, K.T.C.A. 2018. Biogeography and genetic diversity of the atlantid heteropods. Progress in Oceanography, 160:1–25. doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2017.11.004
  • Wall-Palmer, D., Metcalfe, B., Leng, M.J., Sloane, H.J., Ganssen, G., Vinayachandran, P.N., Smart, C.W. 2018. Vertical distribution and diurnal migration of atlantid heteropods. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 587: 1–15. doi: 10.3354/meps12464.
  • Burridge, A.K., Goetze, E., Wall-Palmer, D., Le Double, S., Huisman, J., Peijnenburg, K.T.C.A. 2017. Diversity and abundance of pteropods and heteropods along a latitudinal gradient across the Atlantic Ocean. Progress in Oceanography, 158: 213-223, doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2016.10.001.
  • Manno, C., Bednaršek, N., Tarling, G.A., Peck, V.L., Comeau, S., Adhikari, D., Bakker, D.C.E., Bauerfeind, E., Bergan, A.J., Berning, M.I., Buitenhuis, E., Burridge, A.K., Chierici, M., Flöter, S., Fransson, A., Gardner, J., Howes, E.L., Keul, N., Kimoto, K., Kohnert, P., Lawson, G.L., Lischka, S., Maas, A., Mekkes, L., Oakes, R.L., Pebody, C., Peijnenburg, K.T.C.A., Seifert, M., Skinner, J., Thibodeau, P.S., Wall-Palmer, D., Ziveri, P. 2017.  Shelled pteropods in peril: Assessing vulnerability in a high CO2 ocean. Earth-Science Reviews, 169: 132-145, doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2017.04.005
  • Wall-Palmer, D., Burridge, A.K., Peijnenburg, K.T.C.A., Janssen, A., Goetze, E., Kirby, R., Hart, M.B., Smart, C.W. 2016. Evidence for the validity of Protatlanta sculpta (Gastropoda: Pterotracheoidea). Contributions to Zoology, 85: 423-435.
  • Wall-Palmer, D., Burridge, A.K., Peijnenburg, K.T.C.A. 2016. Atlanta ariejansseni, a new species of shelled heteropod (Gastropoda, Pterotracheoidea) from the Southern Subtropical Convergence Zone. Zookeys, 604: 13–30, doi:10.3897/zookeys.604.8976. 


  • Supervisor of undergraduate and postgraduate student projects at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center focused on planktonic gastropod diversity. 
  • Guest lecturer for the Biological Oceanography Masters course at the University of Amsterdam (course coordinator Katja Peijnenburg).