Bert Van Bocxlaer

Bert VB


Dr. Bert Van Bocxlaer

Current addresses:


CNRS Junior Research Scientist (CR-CNRS)
UMR 8198 – Evolution-Ecology-Paleontology
Cité scientifique, Bât. SN5, bureau 326
F-59655 Villeneuve d’Ascq – FRANCE
Tel: +33 3 20 43 40 15


Limnology Unit (WE11)

Department of Biology

Ghent University

K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35

B-9000 Ghent



Research Unit Palaeontology (WE13)

Department of Geology

Ghent University

Krijgslaan 281 (S8)

B-9000 Ghent



Phone: +32 9 264 46 05

Fax:     +32 9 264 46 08




Research interests

I am integrative evolutionary biologist broadly interested in patterns and processes of organismal diversification, associated changes in morphological disparity, organism-environment interactions, and how diversity is structured in space and over time. What mechanisms are causing differentiation among populations, and ultimately reproductive isolation? How do speciation processes interact in space and time to result into evolutionary radiations? Do speciation mechanisms determine how prone the resulting taxa eventually are to extinction? How can we explain the often marked differences in 'evolutionary success' in even closely related branches of the tree of life? I am studying extant and fossil biota to address these and other questions. To do so, I integrate microevolutionary and macroevolutionary approaches, ranging from the study of genomic and morphological data from natural and experimental propulations in an environmental context, to contrasting predictions of evolutionary theory with empirical data. My main model system is the freshwater mollusks of the East African Great Lakes.

Other interests

  • Schistosomiasis and host-parasite co-evolution.
  • Phenotypic evolution and the relationship between morphospace occupation and phylogeny.
  • Lacustrine versus riverine evolution, driving mechanisms and differential ecological forces.
  • Historic biogeography, migration and evolution of African freshwater molluscs and the impact of paleoclimate on these.

Progressional organisations

  • 2010-Present Unitas Malacologica – Member
  • 2009-Present American Society of Naturalists – Member
  • 2007-Present Society for the Study of Evolution – Member
  • 2007-Present Paleontological Society – Member


  • Van Bocxlaer, B., and E. E. Strong. In press. Viviparidae Gray, 1847 in Lydeard, C., and K. S. Cummings. Eds. Atlas of the Global Distribution of the Freshwater Mollusks of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

  • Van Bocxlaer, B. 2017. Hierarchical structure of ecological and non-ecological processes of differentiation shaped ongoing gastropod radiation in the Malawi Basin. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 284: e20171494. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1494.

  • Van Bocxlaer, B. 2017. Paleoecological insights from fossil freshwater mollusks of the Kanapoi Formation (Omo-Turkana Basin, Kenya). Journal of Human Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.05.008.

  • Van Bocxlaer, B., E. E. Strong, R. Richter, B. Stelbrink, and T. von Rintelen. 2017. Anatomical and genetic data reveal that Rivularia Heude, 1890 belongs to Viviparinae (Gastropoda: Viviparidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx014.

  • Ceríaco, L. M. P., E. E. Gutiérrez, … , B. Van Bocxlaer, et al. 2016. Photography-based taxonomy is inadequate, unnecessary, and potentially harmful for biological sciences. Zootaxa 4196: 435-445.

  • Wilke, T., Wagner, B., Van Bocxlaer, B., Albrecht, C., Ariztegui, D., Delicado, D., Francke, A., Harzhauser, M., Hauffe, T., Holtvoeth, J., Just, J., Leng, M. J., Levkov, Z., Penkman, K., Sadori, L., Skinner, A., Stelbrink, B., Vogel, H., Wesselingh, F. & Wonik, T. 2016 Scientific drilling projects in ancient lakes: Integrating geological and biological evidence. Global and Planetary Change 143: 118-151
  • Van Bocxlaer, B. & Strong, E. E. 2016. Anatomy, functional morphology, evolutionary ecology and systematics of the invasive gastropod Cipangopaludina japonica (Viviparidae: Bellamyinae). Contributions to Zoology 85: 235-263.
  • Creutz, M. Van Bocxlaer, B., Abderamane, M. & Verschuren, D. 2016. Recent environmental history of the dester oasis lakes at Ounianga Serir, Chad. Journal of Paleolimnology 55: 167-183.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B., Clewing, C., Mongindo Etimosundja, J.-P., Kankonda, A., Wembo Ndeo, O. & Albrecht, C. 2015. Recurrent camouflaged invasions and dispersal of an Asian freshwater gastropod in tropical Africa. BMC Evolutionary Biology.
  • Dieleman, J., Van Bocxlaer, B., Manntschke, C., Wanja Nyingi, D., Adriaens, D. & Verschuren, D. 2015. Tracing functional adaptation in African cichlid fishes through morphometric analysis of fossil teeth: exploring the methods. Hydrobiologia. doi: 10.1007/s10750-015-2218-0.
  • Hauffe, T., Schultheiß, R., Van Bocxlaer, B., Prömmel, K. & Albrecht, C. 2015. Environmental heterogeneity predicts species richness of freshwater mollusks in Sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Earth Sciences. doi: 10.1007/s00531-014-1109-3.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B. & Albrecht, C. 2015. Ecosystem change and establishment of an invasive snail alter gastropod communities in long-lived Lake Malawi. Hydrobiologia 744: 307-316. (highlighted cover article of the February 2015 issue)
  • Salzburger, W.*, Van Bocxlaer, B.* & Cohen, A. S. 2014. The ecology and evolution of the African Great Lakes and their fauna. Annual Reviews in Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 45: 519-545. (* = equal contributors)
  • Van Bocxlaer, B., Albrecht, C. & Stauffer, J. R. Jr. 2014. Growing population and ecosystem change increase human schistosomiasis around Lake Malawi. Trends in Parasitology 30: 217-220. (highlighted cover article of the May 2014 issue)
  • Schultheiß, R., Van Bocxlaer, B., Riedel, F., Rintelen, T. von & Albrecht, C. 2014. Disjunct distributions of freshwater snails testify to a central role of the Congo system in shaping biogeographic patterns in Africa. BMC Evolutionary Biology 14: 42 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-42.
  • Cohen, A. S., Van Bocxlaer, B., Todd, J. A., McGlue, M., Michel, E., Nkotagu, H. H., Grove, A. T. & Delvaux, D. 2013. Quaternary ostracodes and molluscs from the Rukwa Basin (Tanzania) and their evolutionary and paleobiogeographic implications. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 392: 79-97.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B. & Hunt, G. 2013. Morphological stasis in an ongoing radiation from Lake Malawi. Proceedings of the National Academy of Natural Sciences of the United States of America. 110: 13892-13897.
  • Gurdebeke, P. R. & Van Bocxlaer, B. 2013. Conchological differentiation in an ongoing radiation of Lanistes gastropods from ancient Lake Malawi: How adaptive is shell morphology? Geologica Belgica 16: 118-119.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B., Salenbien, W., Praet, N. & Verniers, J. 2012. Stratigraphy and paleoenvironments of the early to middle Holocene Chipalamawamba Beds (Malawi, Africa). Biogeosciences 9: 4497-4512.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B., Schultheiß, R., Plisnier, P.-D. & Albrecht, C. 2012. Does the decline of gastropods in deep water herald ecosystem change in Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika? Freshwater Biology 57: 1733-1744. (cover article of the August 2012 issue)
  • Van Bocxlaer, B. 2011. Palaeobiology and evolution of the Late Cenozoic freshwater molluscs of the Turkana Basin: Unionidae Rafinesque, 1820, partim Coelatura (Bivalvia: Unionoidea). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 9: 523-550.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B., Verschuren, D., Schettler, G. & Kroepelin, S. 2011. Modern and early Holocene mollusc fauna of the Ounianga lakes (northern Chad): implications for the palaeohydrology of the central Sahara. Journal of Quaternary Science 26 (4), 433-447.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B. & Schultheiß, R. 2010. Comparison of various morphometric techniques for shapes with few homologous landmarks based on machine-learning approaches to biological discrimination. Paleobiology. 36 (3), 497-515.
  • Schultheiß, R., Van Bocxlaer, B., Wilke, T. & Albrecht, C. 2009. Old fossils-young species: evolutionary history of an endemic gastropod assemblage in Lake Malawi. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 276: 2837-2846.
  • Van Bocxlaer, B. & Van Damme, D. 2009. Palaeobiology and evolution of the Late Cenozoic freshwater molluscs of the Turkana Basin: Iridinidae Swainson, 1840 and Etheriidae Deshayes, 1830 (Bivalvia: Etheroidea). Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 7 (2), 129-161.
  • Van Damme, D. & Van Bocxlaer, B. 2009. Freshwater molluscs of the Nile Basin, past and present. Pp 585-630 in: Dumont, H. J. (Ed.) The Nile: Origin, environment, limnology and human use. Monographiae Biologicae. Springer Verlag, Dordrecht.
  • Eggermont, H., Verschuren, D., Fagot, M., Rumes, B., Van Bocxlaer, B. & Kroepelin, S. 2008. Aquatic community response in a groundwater-fed desert oasis to Holocene desiccation of the Sahara. Quaternary Science Reviews. 27, 2411-2425. Doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.08.028
  • Van Bocxlaer, B., Van Damme, D. & Feibel, C. S. 2008. Gradual versus punctuated equilibrium evolution in the Turkana Basin molluscs: Evolutionary events or Biological Invasions? Evolution. 62 (3), 511-520. (cover article of the March 2008 issue)
  • Van Bocxlaer, B. 2005. Changes in the malacofauna of Lake Malawi since mid-Holocene times. Geologica Belgica 8 (3), 124.