History of Copepodology


With the universal aquatic occurrence of copepods, it is not surprising that they were noted by the earliest naturalists. Beginning two thousand years ago, many scientists and "lovers of wisdom" with names still known and respected throughout the world, like Aristotle, Pliny, Rondelet, Redi, Leeuwenhoek, and Linnaeus, observed copepods. Their careful records became a part of our long written heritage, now numbering around 57,000 published works about copepods.


The copepod world took shape against the vast background of other invertebrates. Our science saw many valuable contributions in the century after the establishment of Linnaeus's taxonomic system in 1758. Pioneer scientists revealed the surprising reproduction and developmental metamorphosis of copepods as well as their roles throughout the natural world, particularly their significance at the food-base of fisheries. Honored names and landmark monographs from this period include those of Otto Friderich Müller (1730-1784, Denmark), Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829, France), Georges Cuvier (1769-1832, France), Louis Jurine (1751-1819, Switzerland), James Dwight Dana (1813-1895, United States), and William Baird (1803-1872, England).


Since copepods did not have the immediate impact or urgency of plants, insects, or larger animals, they were studied only incidentally until the middle of the 19th century. Even so, by that time, there was a strong conceptual framework that recognized a wide variety of copepod species and habitats; even the remarkably "degenerate" parasitic copepods were no longer thought to be worms or mollusks but were revealed by their larval stages to be true crustaceans. The name "copepod" (Greek for paddle-footed) was introduced in 1830 by Henri Milne Edwards (1800-1885) in France. The early taxonomic systems echo in our classifications of today.


The first prominent scientist to devote most of his life to copepods was Carl Claus (1835-1899), Professor of Zoology at the University of Vienna. In 1863, Claus published the first book dealing only with copepods. This helpful treatise summarized the knowledge of free-living copepods of western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. Claus's other works included classic studies of parasitic copepods, adding especially to the useful papers of Henrik Krøyer (1799-1870) from Denmark.


After Darwin, in 1859, naturalists focused on completing Nature's book by describing and indicating the relationships of every species, a task that is far from finished. This quest took biologists to the far corners of the earth and to the greatest depths of the seas. Extensive oceanographic expeditions in the last quarter of the 19th century brought an unbelievable harvest of copepods for an expanding and exclusive copepod literature. The decade before and after 1900 was the Golden Age of Copepodology, with the beautiful and indispensable monographs of Wilhelm Giesbrecht (1854-1913, Germany and Italy), Eugène Canu (1864-1952, France), Otto Schmeil (1860-1943, Germany), and Georg Ossian Sars (1837-1927, Norway).


Also, toward the end of the 19th century, the founder of ecology Karl Möbius (1825-1908) and his followers began to measure the precise impacts of copepods on their living and non-living surroundings. More consideration was given to developmental, geographical, and population characteristics of copepods.


With the 20th century, women scientists became equal partners in the study of copepods. Among the first were Maria Dahl (1872-1972) and Marie Lebour (1876-1971). These years saw marvelous technical improvements in microscopes and sampling, and a movement toward physiology and the investigation of living copepods. Sheina Marshall (1896-1977), Andrew Picken Orr (1898-1962), Aubrey Nicholls (1904-1986), and Frederick Russell (1897-1984) laid the foundation of these studies, a large part of copepodology's present efforts.


The lives of many of our heroes are overwhelming, and they stand in the highest ranks of biology in every nation. Many who are well known for other accomplishments made critical additions to the body of copepod knowledge. Their teachings and research became centers of excellence, attracting students from far and wide. Their names are linked forever with the variety, distribution, and behavior of the freshwater, marine, free-living, and parasitic copepods they described. Among these immortals are P. J. Van Beneden, V. Brehm, A. Brian, K. Brodsky, C. van Douwe, C. O. Esterly, G. Grice, R. Gurney, H. J. Hansen, W. A. Herdman, A. G. Humes, Fr. Kiefer, W. Klie, H. Kunz, K. Lang, A. Markevich, C. D. Marsh, H. Marukawa, T. Mori, J. Richard, M. Rose, V. Rylov, T. & A. Scott, A. Steuer, O. Tanaka, C. B. Wilson, and many others who have become our own. The working copepodologist sees in these names essential publications kept close at hand, milestones in a unique science.


Copepodology continues uninterrupted into the 21st century, looking now at copepods in ecosystems of oceans, lakes, and rivers, from deep-sea vents to groundwaters. Armed with new tools like electron microscopes, remote sensing, molecular biology, and computers, copepodologists explore genetics, medical/morphological applications, mathematical modeling, precision sampling, a wealth of new species from extreme habitats, environmental pollution and over-harvesting, introduced species, and many other consequences and opportunities undreamed of by our predecessors.

by David Damkaer

Brief History of the WAC

In 1979 Dov Por attempted to stimulate better communication between copepodologists by writing to the meiofauna newsletter Psammonalia with two suggestions:


1) To organise a symposium on Copepoda

2) To organise and edit a Copepod Newsletter.


There was a small response to this initiative, which increased when the call was repeated in Crustaceana. Then, in March 1980, a first circular letter was sent out to 87 copepodologists around the world, and 34 replied. In a second letter Dov Por announced: that a First International Conference on Copepoda would be organized in Amsterdam in August 1981 by Jan Stock, and that Kurt Schminke had offered to edit a Copepod Newsletter.


In October 1980 the first issue of Monoculus, edited by Kurt Schminke and produced by Gerd Schriever, appeared, followed by a second (February 1981) and a third (July 1981) in the approach to the First Conference. About 120 copepodologists attended that first conference in Amsterdam, which was a great success.


At the Second International Conference on Copepoda, held in Ottawa (organised by Chang-tai Shih) in August 1984, a general assembly was held at which it was decided to establish a formal organization, the World Association of Copepodologists (WAC), and Dr Zbigniew Kabata was elected Founder President. Together with a provisional executive committee, it was his task to prepare a constitution for the WAC and an organizational framework to be placed before the members at the Third International Conference, scheduled for London in 1987.


Throughout this entire formative period the newsletter Monoculus, now taking its familiar form, appeared on average twice each year. It grew in size and stature as a forum for debate and information exchange among the community of copepodologists. Monoculus No. 11 published in October 1985 contained the draft constitution for the WAC along with a request for comments.


On 1st January 1986 all copepodologists listed in the Directory of Copepodologists and receiving Monoculus became Founder Members of the WAC. The number of Founder Members reached 207 by the end of 1986. Also in 1986 it was announced that annual dues for membership of the WAC would be charged, including subscription for Monoculus (which had been free from its inception).


Since 1981, the WAC has held an international conference every three years. By June 2002, the WAC had 900 researchers in the database, in 2009 there was 633 researchers listed in the database (only 111 were paying members), and in 2020 there are currently 119 paying members.