Thursday, 10 April 2014

A new species of Earthworm from Spain.

Earthworms play a major role in the formation of soils in many parts of the world (though soils can and do form in there absence), ingesting and breaking larger portions of organic material and producing a nitrogen rich humus. This role in soil formation makes them very important members of many ecosystems, yet they are often not well understood, with the biology of only a few European species studied extensively.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 9 April 2014, a team of scientists led by Darío Díaz Cosín of the Departamento de Zoología y Antropología Física at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid describe a new species of Earthworm from Cáceres Province in the Extremadura Autonomous Community of Spain.

The new species is placed in the genus Eiseniona, and given the specific name gerardoi, after Gerardo Moreno of the Centro Universitario de Plasencia, who collected the specimens from which the species was collected. Although Díaz Cosín et al. recognize that there is currently considerable controversy about Earthworm taxonomy, due to the conservative morphology of the group and the appearance of similar traits among Worms from different lineages living in similar ecological conditions (convergent evolution), and acknowledge that not all experts in the field recognize Eiseniona as a valid taxon, they are confident that Eiseniona gerardoi is a genuine new species based upon both morphological and genetic analysis.

Eiseniona gerardoi is a 21-40 mm reddish-brown Earthworm. It has a set of densely packed white glands on the dorsal blood vessel in each segment from the twentieth to the rear of the body. The species is described from 19 specimens collected in open grazed Oak woodland near El Bronco.

External view of the front part of Eiseniona gerardoi. Díaz Cosín et al. (2014).

Schematic diagram of the front part of Eiseniona gerardoi. Díaz Cosín et al. (2014).

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