Thursday, September 10, 2015

A new leech: Erpobdella borisi

Not all leeches are blood sucking worms. Members of the family Erpobdellidae have abandoned the blood feeding habits of their ancestors and became predators of small aquatic invertebrates, which they often swallow whole. Species of this genus have three or four pairs of eyes, but never have true jaws, and are typically 20–50 mm long. 

These leeches are widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere and found mostly in freshwater. Our new species was found in a cave in Iran. The species name honors Professor Boris Sket, former dean of the Biotechnical faculty and rector of the University of Ljubljana, and researcher of invertebrate cave fauna.

For the experts: Erpobdella borisi n. sp. is a predatory leech inhabiting cave waters in Iran. Probably, it is either a troglobiont or troglophile. The leech has no eyes, and the complete mid-body somite is divided unequally into five annuli. Results of phylogenetic analysis based on morphological characters and COI gene sequence indicate the species to be closely related to Erpobdella japonica, E. octoculata and E. testacea.

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