Global Worming

 

Dr. Rüdiger M. Schmelz

71 new species of earthworms and enchytraeids in a Zootax Special Issue in honor of András Zicsi (1928-2015)


 

Seventy-one new species of earthworms and enchytraeids – small whitish relatives of earthworms – have been uncovered in a Special Issue of the journal Zootaxa (Nº 4496). More than 100 authors have contributed in 40 articles to the 575 pages volume. The species were found in 15 different countries of South America, Africa, and Eurasia. This volume was published to commemorate András Zicsi (1928-2015), the eminent German-Hungarian earthworm taxonomist. It provides a good overview on the current state-of-the-art of earthworm taxonomy, with respect to methods, styles and standards of description, geographical and thematic focus. DNA-sequencess are increasingly used to corroborate or even to establish new species, even though detailed morphological descriptions remain the backbone of earthworm taxonomy.

 A highlight of the  Zootaxa  Special Issue on earthworms: a second marine littoral earthworm species,  Pontodrilus longissimus . Up to now only  one  truly marine littoral species of earthworms had been known, the peregrine  Pontodrilus litoralis . The second species was discovered by the specialist and "earthworm species hunter" Samuel James with a short look at the material ("this is a new species"), but it's a long way from discovery to valid description. This work was carried out in the group of Somsak Panha at the Chulalongkorn University of Bangkok. The paper includes a revision of the sister species  P. litoralis  and a comparison of both species at DNA-level. Left: Three specimens right after fixation. Right: Drawings of taxonomic structures, morphology and anatomy. Bottom: Molecular comparison of the new species with its sister species. From Seesamut  et al. , Zootaxa 4496, pp. 218-237, with permission of the authors.

A highlight of the Zootaxa Special Issue on earthworms: a second marine littoral earthworm species, Pontodrilus longissimus. Up to now only one truly marine littoral species of earthworms had been known, the peregrine Pontodrilus litoralis. The second species was discovered by the specialist and "earthworm species hunter" Samuel James with a short look at the material ("this is a new species"), but it's a long way from discovery to valid description. This work was carried out in the group of Somsak Panha at the Chulalongkorn University of Bangkok. The paper includes a revision of the sister species P. litoralis and a comparison of both species at DNA-level. Left: Three specimens right after fixation. Right: Drawings of taxonomic structures, morphology and anatomy. Bottom: Molecular comparison of the new species with its sister species. From Seesamut et al., Zootaxa 4496, pp. 218-237, with permission of the authors.

Earthworm taxonomy is not an ivory tower discipline. Many species are discovered in areas where people live, work, and sustain their livelihood. Because of their body size they are often known by the locals before science gets hold of them. Farmers are interested in the species that live on their lands. Sustainable agriculture is unthinkable without earthworms. The amount of endemic species with a narrow distribution range—and therefore with risk of extinction due to soil degradation or land use change—is tremendous. So earthworm taxonomy really matters. This volume increases the number of known species by 1%, a small but notable proportion!

The editorial can be downloaded here.

Global diversity of earthworms and enchytraeids (Clitellata): papers in honor of András Zicsi (1928–2015) (ed. Rüdiger M. Schmelz). Zootaxa 4496, 575 pp.; 30 cm. Magnolia Press, Auckland, New Zealand. ISBN 978-1-77670-496-5 (paperback).

ISBN 978-1-77670-497-2 (Online edition). Orders via magnolia@mapress.com.

Dr. Rüdiger M. Schmelz is taxonomist of enchytraeids and Zootaxa subject editor for Oligochaeta.

 András Zicsi and  Martiodrilus ischuros  Zicsi, 1990 in Santa Rosa, Prov. Pichincha, Ecuador, April 1990. This deep-burrowing giant earthworm was well-known to the local people; they knew when and where it would crawl up to the surface. András Zicsi (1928-2015) was Hungarian but his mother-tongue was German. He was a researcher in the Soil Zoology Group at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and gave courses at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. In 137 papers he described 237 new species of earthworms, mostly from Europe and South America; he erected and revised numerous genera, wrote identificatin keys ... His earthworm collection – among the largest worldwide – consists of roughly 100.000 specimens and more than 800 species. His legacy is now continued by one of his students, Csaba Csuzdi, the leading European earthworm taxonomist. Photo by: Csaba Csuzdi.

András Zicsi and Martiodrilus ischuros Zicsi, 1990 in Santa Rosa, Prov. Pichincha, Ecuador, April 1990. This deep-burrowing giant earthworm was well-known to the local people; they knew when and where it would crawl up to the surface. András Zicsi (1928-2015) was Hungarian but his mother-tongue was German. He was a researcher in the Soil Zoology Group at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and gave courses at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. In 137 papers he described 237 new species of earthworms, mostly from Europe and South America; he erected and revised numerous genera, wrote identificatin keys ... His earthworm collection – among the largest worldwide – consists of roughly 100.000 specimens and more than 800 species. His legacy is now continued by one of his students, Csaba Csuzdi, the leading European earthworm taxonomist.
Photo by: Csaba Csuzdi.