Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A new leech: Chtonobdella tanae

I am thrilled to be immortalized as Chtonobdella tanae. This humble leech has looped across a new scientific threshold--the first microscopic soft-bodied critter to be described inside and out using CT scanning. Imagine the possibilities for identifying legions of tiny organisms that have thus far lived in obscurity. I am now planning my trip to Queensland, Australia, where I hope to take leisurely walks through the jungle, accompanied by a dozen or so of my namesake feeding on my ankles.
Amy Tan 

Chtonobdella tanae, a terrestrial leech from Australia, is the first new species of invertebrate without chitinous or calcified tissues (like a shell or exoskeleton) to be described with computed tomography (CT) scanning.

For the experts: Two-jawed (duognathous) terrestrial leeches in the Haemadipsidae are major pests across their wide geographic range, represented by numerous endemic species in Australia and across many islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, haemadipsid taxonomy, based largely on externally visible characters, remains in conflict with phylogenetic relationships. We capitalize on the power of microcomputed tomography (μCT), allowing for the first description of an extant soft-bodied species – Chtonobdella tanae sp. n. – using this technology. Several fixation strategies for soft-bodied invertebrates in μCT scanning applications are also evaluated. Expanding on prior work, higher taxonomy of duognathous haemadipsids also was evaluated with phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data. Whereas monophyly of duognathous leeches was supported, substantial conflict remained with respect to named genera. Consequently, the genus Chtonobdella was revised to include all duognathous leech species previously distributed in 31, mostly monotypic genera.

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