Tuesday 24 July 2012

New species of carnivorous Leech from Taiwan.

Leeches are a group of Annelid Worms (segmented Worms) best known for their habit of latching onto larger organisms and sucking their blood, although many Leeches, possibly the majority, do not actually do this, being instead carnivores preying on smaller invertebrates. The majority of known species live in freshwater or are amphibious, able to leave the water in damp environments. Members of the genus Orobdella are specialist carnivores of other Annelid Worms, known from Japan, Korea and the Russian Far East.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 11 June 2012, Takafumi Nakano of the Department of Zoology at the Graduate School of Science at Kyoto University and Yi-Te Lai of the Institute of Zoology at the National Taiwan University and the Department of Biology at the University of Eastern Finland describe a new species of Orobdella from Taipei, the capitol of Taiwan, the first species described from the country.

Map of Taiwan and the surrounding area, showing the location where the new Leech was found. Nakano & Lai (2012).

The new species is named Orobdella ketagalan, after the indigenous Ketagalan people of the Taipei Basin. It is distinguished from other members of the genus by the anatomy of its reproductive system, and by genetic data; gene sequencing of Orobdella ketagalan revealed that it was most closely related to members of the genus from the Ryukyu Archipelago, a string of islands belonging to Japan that connect Taiwan to Kyushu, the most southwesterly of Japan's main islands. It is a flattened segmented worm, slightly over 7 cm in length.

Orobdella ketagalan. (A) Dorsal view. (B) Ventral view. Scale bar is 5 mm. Nakano & Lai (2012).

Follow Sciency Thoughts of Facebook.