SOSA – Senckenberg Ocean Species Alliance


An estimated 90% of all marine species are still undiscovered, most of which are invertebrates. But although they provide the greatest biodiversity in the ocean, they are underrepresented in conservation efforts. This is also reflected on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species where 15% of assessed species are marine, but only 20% of these are invertebrates. The Marine Invertebrates Red List Authority (MIRLA) aims to increase the number of assessed marine invertebrates on the IUCN Red List and thus increase species protection and social appreciation.

MIRLA is an official Red List Authority responsible for coordinating the assessments and reassessments of marine invertebrates for the Red List. Currently, there are four IUCN committees focused on the conservation of specific marine invertebrate groups: horseshoe crabs, corals, sea cucumbers, and brittle stars/feather stars. Other specialist groups also cover marine taxa among larger projects, such as the Mollusc Specialist Group. MIRLA serves as the home for all marine invertebrates who are not covered by other specialist groups.


MIRLA Capacity Building:

In order to assess species for the IUCN Red List, individual scientists need to first be trained in how to properly prepare assessments. MIRLA is working to build capacity for Red List assessment of marine invertebrates by organizing and delivering these crucial trainings for marine invertebrate specialists. In April 2023, MIRLA organized the first hybrid (virtual / in person) training event and in September 2023, provided Red List Assessment training to experts at a Cold-Water Coral Red List Assessment Workshop.

Learn more about Red List Assessment Trainings and access online training courses here:


MIRLA Red List Assessment workshops

MIRLA organizes and sponsors Red List Assessment workshops aimed at bringing together experts to assess the endangerment status of multiple species within a marine invertebrate taxonomic group. Sometimes this is the first time a species’ global endangerment status is being assessed, other times, a species is being reassessed. Red List assessments become “out of date” 10 years after the initial date they were assessed. This is because our knowledge about species and the threats they face are always evolving, so it is important to reevaluate a species in light of new data. Species reassessment also allows experts to observe whether any conservation efforts have been effective in rolling back a species status.

An example of a MIRLA Red List Assessment workshop is December’s Cone Snail Red List Workshop. MIRLA organized 17 experts gathered from 7 countries to reassess the current state of threat for cone snail species. An original assessment was made for these cone snails in 2011, which was now out of date according to Red List standards. This team reassessed over 600 cone snail species that were originally assessed in 2011, as well as made new assessments for over 100 new species of cone snails. Workshops like these, help to assess many species in a short period of time, boosting representation of marine invertebrates on the IUCN Red List as well as make sure evolving threats are documented for conservation efforts. Read more about the Cone Snail Workshop here.

Participants in December 2023 Cone Snail Red List Workshop

MIRLA Strategic Focus Areas

Hydrothermal vents are unique habitats of underwater volcanoes along the seafloor that spew hot, mineral-rich water into the ocean. They support an amazing chemosynthetic ecosystem, where animals derive nutrients from chemicals released from the vents, rather than photosynthesis. These incredible ecosystems are unfortunately under threat as hydrothermal vents are areas of interest for mining polymetallic sulfide minerals. Species that live on hydrothermal vents are thus also threatened as their habitat is often limited to a single vent system, meaning if a vent was severely damaged or destroyed by mining activities, entire species could also go extinct. This urgency has compelled MIRLA to focus its efforts on assessing various marine invertebrate animals that live on hydrothermal vents.

Another strategic focus area of MIRLA is to assess species that are also listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. Even though CITES was initiated by the IUCN, many species that are on the CITES list do not have Red List assessments. This is especially true for umbrella categories (like stone corals), where an entire genus or group of animals were placed on the CITES list, but not all of the individual species have been assessed on the Red List. MIRLA is working to ensure alignment between these two lists (CITES and Red List) by focusing Red List assessment efforts on CITES-list species without a Red List assessment.



MIRLA Committee Members

Prof. Dr. Julia Sigwart – MIRLA Chair
Field of expertise: Mollusca
Senckenberg Research Institute and Museum, Frankfurt, Germany
Member Mollusc SG

Dr. Tatiana Begun
Field of expertise: Crustacea (Mysida), Mollusca (Bivalvia)
National Institute of Research and Development for Marine Geology and Geoecology, Bucharest, Romania          

Dr. James Bernot
Field of expertise: Copepoda
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut
WoRMS Steering Committee, WoRMS editor for Copepoda

Dr. Gregorio Bigatti
Field of expertise: Neogastropoda, Gastropoda, Molluscs
Instituto de Biología de Organismos Marinos IBIOMAR-CONICET, Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina

Dr. Monika Böhm
Global Center for Species Survival, Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, USA
Co-chair Butterfly & Moth SG
Member Mollusc SG
Member Freshwater Fish SG
Member Invertebrate Conservation Committee
Member Freshwater Conservation Committee

Prof. Emeritus Mark Botton
Field of expertise: Horseshoe Crabs
Fordham University, New York, USA
Co-chair Horseshoe Crab SG

Dr. Francoise Cabada-Blanco
Field of expertise: Cnidaria (Scleractinia)
University of Portsmouth, UK and Universidad Simon Bolivar, Venezuela
Co-chair Coral SG

Prof. Barbara Calcinai
Field of expertise: Porifera
Università Politecnica delle Marche, Italy             

Prof. Piero Calosi
Field of expertise: Crustacea
Department of Biology, Chemistry and Geography, University of Quebec in Rimouski, Rimouski, Canada
Member Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability (OARS) program under the UN Decade of Ocean Science – Outcome #2 Working Group
Member Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Ocean Acidification Climate Expert Group
Member North Atlantic Hub for Ocean Acidification

Dr. Maritza Cardenas
Field of expertise: Annelida
Faculty of Chemical Engineering, University of Guayaquil-Bioelit Foundation, Ecuador
Member of South American Research Group in coastal ecosystems, Marine Biodiversity Observation Network of the Americas

Dr. Christiana Castello-Branco
Field of expertise: Porifera
Department of Invertebrates, National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dr. Ana Colaço
Field of expertise: Chemosynthetic fauna
Ocean Sciences Institute – Okeanos, University of the Azores, Portugal   

Prof. Mohammed Ezziyyani
Field of expertise: Porifera
Abdelmalek Essaâdi University, Larache, Morocco           

Prof. Emerita Sophie George
Field of expertise: Echinodermata
Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, USA
Chair Marine Star Specialist Group

Dr. Sergio Henriques
Field of expertise: Pycnogonida
Global Center for Species Survival, Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis, USA
Co-chair Spider and Scorpion SG
Member cave invertebrates SG
Member Invertebrate Conservation Committee
Member Conservation Planning Specialist Group

Dr. Jeremy Horowitz
Field of expertise: Cnidaria (Antipatharia)
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, USA          

Assoc. Prof. Izwandy Idris
Field of expertise: Annelida
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Malaysia            

Prof. Viatcheslav Ivanenko
Field of expertise: Crustacea (Copepoda)
Shenzhen MSU BIT University, China & Moscow State University, Russia
WoRMS group editor

Prof. Marie Antonette Juinio-Meñez
Field of expertise: Echinodermata
Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines, Diliman Quezon City, Philippines
Co-chair Sea Cucumber SG

Dr. Krishan D. Karunarathne
Field of expertise:Ctenophora, Cnidaria, Thaliacea
Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka
Member WestPac Jellyfish Group

Prof. Keith Crandall
Field of expertise: Decapoda
George Washington University, Washington DC, USA
Member Freshwater Crustacean SG

Asst. Prof. Gloria Massamba N’Siala
Field of expertise: Annelida
Old Dominion University, USA   

Prof. Annie Mercier
Field of expertise: Echinodermata, Cnidaria
Memorial University, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Co-chair Sea Cucumber SG

Prof. Klautau Michelle
Field of expertise: Porifera (class Calcarea)
Zoology Department, Biology Institute, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
WoRMS group editor

Prof. André C. Morandini
Field of expertise: Cnidaria (Scyphozoa, Cubozoa)
Zoology Department and Center for Marine Biology, University of São Paulo, Brazil
WoRMS group editor

Prof. Agnes Muthumbi
Field of expertise: Nematoda
University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya     

Asst. Prof. Jin-Ho Park
Field of expertise: Crustacea (Decapoda)
Jeonbuk National University, Jeonju, Republic of Korea 

Riley Pollom
Field of expertise: Mollusca, Echinodermata
Seattle Aquarium, Seattle, USA
SSC Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon SG
IUCN Cross-Commission Task Force on Reducing the Impacts of Fisheries on Marine Biodiversity (Co-chair)

Dr. Rachel Przeslawski
New South Wales Department of Fisheries          

Dr. Torben Riehl
Field of expertise: Crustacea (Isopoda)
Senckenberg Research Institute and Museum, Frankfurt, Germany          

Dr. Julia Silva Beneti
Field of expertise: Cnidaria
Senckenberg Research Institute and Museum, Frankfurt, Germany
SOSA Red List Assessor

Dr. Toufiek Samaai
Field of expertise: Porifera
Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Oceans and Coasts, Cape Town, South Africa
Co-chair Porifera SG [forthcoming]

Dr. Mary Seddon
Field of expertise: Mollusca
Chair Mollusc SG

Dr. Paul Shin
Field of expertise: Horseshoe Crabs
City University of Hong Kong, HKSAR, China
Co-chair Horseshoe Crab SG

Dr. Sanitha Sivadas
Field of expertise: Polychaeta
National Centre for Coastal Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Chennai, India

Dr. Veronica Toral-Granda
Field of expertise: Echinodermata
Northern Hub, Australia
RLA Sea Cucumber SG