Peter Ax

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Peter Ax (born March 29, 1927 in Hamburg ; died May 2, 2013 ) was a German zoologist . His most important works deal with the study of the sand gap fauna and the representation of the phylogenetic system of animals.


Peter Ax attended high school for boys in Hamburg until 1944 and then did his military service. From 1946 he studied biology at the University of Kiel and graduated in 1950, at the age of 23, with a doctorate . From 1952 to 1961 he was employed as a research assistant at the same university, in 1955 he completed his habilitation and was active as a lecturer. In 1961 he went to the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen , where he took over the chair for morphology and systematic zoology and stayed until his retirement in 1992. Among other things, he initiated the establishment of a chair for animal ecology. From 1972 to 1973 Ax worked alongside other scientists at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galapagos Islands .

Peter Ax died on May 2, 2013 at the age of 86.


Special zoology

Peter Ax mainly dealt with the micro and meiofauna of the sand gap system in seabeds and the systematics of flatworms . He identified a number hitherto unknown species in the living space, including the first tunicate (Tunicata) Diplosoma micans , which was found in the interstitial fauna 1970th In 1956 he first described the jaw mouths (Gnathostomulida), which can also be found in this habitat.


Peter Ax also dealt with the basics of phylogenetic systematics , which goes back to the work of Willi Hennig , and was one of the most important representatives of phylogenetic systematics in Germany. He rejected the use of labels such as "family" or "order" for biological taxonomies because of the arbitrary assignment. There are no natural rules that dictate that a group of organisms should, for example, be ranked as an order rather than a class. Like other representatives of cladistics, Ax suggests using only the term “taxon”.

Ax published his book The Phylogenetic System as a basic representation in 1984 and the systematics in biology in 1988 . Between 1995 and 2001 he published his three-volume textbook on the phylogenetic system of animals.

Memberships and recognition

Peter Ax was editor of the journal Microfauna marina, which he initiated . He worked as a visiting scientist at the Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington , at the marine biology stations in Arcachon , Banyuls-sur-Mer and Naples and, as part of a larger research project, at the Darwin station in the Galapagos Islands .

In 1969 Peter Ax was accepted into the Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz . In 1971 he was elected a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . In 1986 he was accepted as a member of the Joachim Jungius Society of Sciences . In 1986/87 he was made a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin , in 2003 he became an honorary member of the Society for Biological Systematics (GfBS).

Publications (selection)

  • The Gnathostomulida, a mysterious group of worms from the sea sand , Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz 1956
  • The Phylogenetic System. Systematisation of living nature based on its natural phylogenesis , G. Fischer Verlag Stuttgart, 1984
  • The Metazoa system , G. Fischer Verlag Stuttgart, 1995 to 2001
  • The system of Metazoa II. A textbook on phylogenetic systematics. Stuttgart / Jena 1999

supporting documents

  1. a b c d e Rainer Willmann : Obituary for Peter Ax at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen; Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  2. ^ List of members . In: Yearbook of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . No. 2013 , 2014, pp. 45 .
  3. ^ Joachim Jungius Society of Sciences: Members. Retrieved March 26, 2017 .

Web links