Menno Schilthuizen

Menno Schilthuizen

I am an evolutionary biologist. I study how animals (specifically, insects and land snails) diverge and adapt. I am particularly interested in rapid evolution, either in natural situations or in situations that have been influenced by humans. I work both in the field and in the lab, and where possible I make use of that unique research tool: our natural history collection.


Coleoptera, terrestrial Gastropoda, Borneo, Balkans, Netherlands, speciation, urban evolution, endemism


My main motivation is the incredible diversity of life. In my research I study the processes that have driven (and are still driving) that diversification.

The biodiversity we see around us today is not static. It is constantly changing, evolving. Species diversify or go extinct. Their distributions and their niches change as does their appearance. Various processes of natural and sexual selection are responsible for these changes, some of which are accelerated today, as we humans create changes in the environment that set up novel selection regimes. In my research, my students and I study cases of rapid evolutionary change and diversification in wild organisms.

Different colour forms of the nail Cepaea nemoralis
genitalia of Ptomaphaginus beetle


Kinabalu seen from Trusmadi

Evolution of endemism

Endemic species are the cherries on biodiversity's cake. Species that occur only in a small area are vulnerable and therefore have a high priority for conservation. they also give an insight into the processes of extinction (if they are ancient endemics)…
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Rapid Evolution in the Anthropocene

Rapid evolution takes place when there are drastic changes in the environment which drives species' adaptation. These days, humans are the chief cause for such drastic environmental changes. I run a number of research projects to understand how such HIREC…
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Left hand, right hand

Left hand, right hand

Chirality is the phenomenon that, like hands, asymmetric objects can come in two mirror-image forms. Many organs and entire organisms are asymmetric. However, in most species, only one of the two mirror-images actually exists. In snails, for example…
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  • Nekola J.C., Schilthuizen M., Szabo K., Horsáková V., Horsák M. 2019. First evidence for long‐term stasis in wet‐tropics land snail community composition. Ecography 42: 591-593.
  • Schilthuizen, M. 2018. Darwin Comes to Town. How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution. Quercus / Picador.
  • Schilthuizen M., Pazos Clavera A., Khoo M.S., Bondar C.A., Elder C.H.S., Bouma A.M., Eddington T.D., Reisinger C., Cosentino E., Rossato M., Delledonne M. 2018. Bringing the lab to the field: a new lowland Microparmarion semi-slug (Gastropoda: Ariophantidae) described and DNA-barcoded in the forest. Journal of Molluscan Studies 85: 35-40.
  • Njunjić I., Perrard A., Hendriks K., Schilthuizen M., Perreau M., Merckx V.S.F.T., Baylac M., Deharveng L. 2018. Comprehensive evolutionary analysis of the Anthroherpon radiation (Coleoptera, Leiodidae, Leptodirini). PLOS ONE 13: e0198367.
  • Merckx V.S.F.T., Hendriks K.P., Beentjes K.K., Mennes C.B., Becking L.E., Peijnenburg K.T.C.A., Afendy A., Arumugam N., de Boer H., Biun A., Buang M.M., Chen P.-P., Chung A.Y.C., Dow R., Feijen F.A.A., Feijen H., Feijen-van Soest C, Geml J., Geurts R., Gravendeel B., Hovenkamp P., Imbun P., Ipor I., Janssens S.B., Jocqué M. Kappes H., Khoo E., Koomen P., Lens F., Majapun R.J., Morgado L.N., Neupane S., Nieser N., Pereira J.T., Rahman H., Sabran S., Sawang A., Schwallier R.M., Shim P.-S., Smit H., Sol N., Spait M., Stech M., Stokvis F., Sugau J.B., Suleiman M., Sumail S., Thomas D.C., van Tol J., Tuh F.Y.Y., Yahya B.E., Nais J., Repin R., Lakim M. & Schilthuizen M. 2015. Evolution of endemism on a young tropical mountain. Nature 524: 347-350.

All publications in Google Scholar



    I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

    • Auke-Florian Hiemstra (with Barbara Gravendeel, Naturalis)
    • Mohd Zacaery bin Khalik (with Martin Haase, Universität Greifswald)
    • Kevin Beentjes (with Arjen Speksnijder, Hogeschool Leiden)
    • Robbert Striekwold (with Paul Smith, Univ. Leiden)
    • Deyi Wang (with Vincent Merckx, Naturalis)
    • Michiel Hooykaas (with Ionica Smeets, Univ. Leiden)
    Plectostoma microsnails from Borneo.


    I teach the following courses:

    • Orientation Evolutionary Biology (MSc-level, Leiden Univ.)
    • Tropical Biodiversity and Field Methods (MSc-level, Leiden Univ.)
    • MOOC Evolution Today (Leiden Univ. & Coursera)

    In the

    I am in Dutch and international media on a weekly basis. Check my personal website for the latest updates.

    Menno with rat