Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding
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MISSION: increase scientific literacy and public understanding of the role of exotic species in ecosystems change. provide the tools and resources for citizens to actively contribute in documenting the distributions of exotic earthworms and their impacts across the region.

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MISSION: increase scientific literacy and public understanding

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Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

  • MISSION:

  • increase scientific literacy and public understanding

  • of the role of exotic species in ecosystems change.

  • provide the tools and resources for citizens to actively

  • contribute in documenting the distributions of exotic

  • earthworms and their impacts across the region.

  • train educators and other community leaders to help

  • build understanding of the methods and results of

  • scientific research about exotic earthworms and forest

  • ecosystems ecology.


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

  • The story of exotic earthworms began…


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

So…

How widespread are these invasions?


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

Earthworms - selected species and ecological groups:

Epigeic (litter dwelling) species: live & feed in forest floor; reddish brown, 2-8cm

Dendrobaena octeadra / Dendrodrilus rubidus Lumbricus rubellus

Endogeic (soil dwelling) species: live & feed in mineral soil; grey color; 7 – 12 cm

Octolasion tyrtaeum and Aporrectodea species

Anecic species: burrow deeply but feed on surface; red-brown; 10 – 20 cm

Lumbricus terrestris


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

Great Lakes Worm Watch

Illustrated guide to exotic earthworms found in the Great Lakes Region

  • To use this guide you need :

  • 10x magnification

  • preserved earthworms


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

Earthworm anatomy and characteristics used in this key:

The presence or absence of pigmentation (usually brown or red-brown) is an important feature that distinguishes different ecological groups of earthworms (details on page #).

The proboscis (mouth parts) type can vary among different earthworm species and may be useful in identification (details on page #).

Earthworms have segmented bodies and various anatomical features used for identification are located on different segments. Therefore, you may need to count (from nose to tail) the number of segments to determine the position of different features (details on page #).

The male pore is an external opening where sperm is released during reproduction. It is often obvious due to glandular swelling. It is generally on segment 15 (so useful when counting segments) but in some earthworm species is on segments 14 or 13 so is a features useful for identifying these particular species (details on page #).

The clitellum (a swollen band-like area near the head end of an earthworm) and it’s associated features called the tuberculata pubertatis (TP) and genital tumescence (GT) are part of the reproductive system of and earthworm. Therefore, if an earthworm has a clitellum, it is an adult and if not, it is a juvenile. The position, shape and color of the clitellum and it’s TP and GT are important features used to identify earthworm species (details on page #).

The setae are small hair-like projections on the body of earthworms. The setae are attached to muscles and are used for locomotion. There are several different setae patterns which are important features useful in identifying both adult and juvenile earthworm (details on page #).


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

Cross-sectional view (left) and ¾ view (right) of “widely paired” setae pattern where distance B is only slightly greater than distance A

Earthworm setae arrangements (1st of 3 pages):

The setae (hair-like projections) on each segment in European earthworm species (family Lumbricidae) appear as 8 long rows running the length of the body. These rows are arranged relative to each other in one of three patterns. In the two most common patterns, the rows are arranged in pairs that are either closely or widely spaced. NOTE: The difference between closely and widely paired setae includes differences in the amount of space between the two rows of setae in each pair ( “A” in illustrations), the distance between the pairs (“B” in illustrations), and the arrangement of the setae around the body.

Widely paired setae:

Closely paired setae:

A

A

B

Cross-sectional view (left) and ¾ view (right) of “closely paired” setae pattern where distance B is much greater than distance A and setae are clustered on the ventral (belly) side of the earthworm.

B


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

Earthworm Segments: Various anatomical features used for identification of earthworm species are often located in different places on the body for different species. Therefore, you may need to count (from mouth to tail) the number of segments to determine the position of different features …

At the very top is

the proboscis, or mouth

segment 1

segment 2

segment 3

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

segment 15

(male pore)

.

.

.

.

.

segment 32

(start of clitellum)

.

.

segment 37

(end of clitellum)

.

.

Segments, separated by and internal membrane called a septum

Intersegmental

furrows

Sometimes furrows develop in the middle of a segment. Don’t be fooled by the this and over count the number of segments!

Segments

Intersegmental

furrows


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

Earthworm clitellum features:

The tuberculata pubertatis (TP) and genital tumescence (GT) are features associated with the earthworm’s clitellum. They can vary in position, shape and color among different species, so are useful in identification. If the earthworm is not fully mature, then these features may not be fully developed and you must take this into account when using these features for identification. The function of the TP and GT are not fully understood, though we assume they play some role in reproduction!

  • The tuberculata pubertatis (TP), are two slightly swollen and usually differently colored areas on each side of the ventral (belly) surface of the clitellum.

If this clitellum starts

on segment 25,

then…

The TP starts on

segment 26,

and…

  • The genital tumescence (GT), are small swollen areas around setae (so they are often paired as are the setae) on each side of the ventral surface of the clitellum. GT may also be seen above or below the clitellum region or associate with male & female pores.

The TP ends on

segment 29

Pairs of GT are present on

segments 24 through 31

in these images, indicated on

the left by grey arrows.

The shape and color of the TP and the number and positions of the GT vary quite a bit among species and some species have none. So see the species descriptions for their particular characteristics.


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

Both species have

closely paired setae

Aporrectodea caliginosa complex (includes species A. caliginosa and A. tuberculata)

Both A. caliginosa & A. tuberculataare unique in that they have a notched TP.

This group contain two very closely related and often difficult to distinguish soil dwelling (endogeic) species A. caliginosa and A. tuberculata, whichare separated by the patterns of their GT.If the clitellum features are well developed enough to make the distinction, then do so. If not, then these get lumped into a single group called A. caliginosa complex.

Examples of underdeveloped clitellum features:

A. caliginosa(above) has GT on

alternating and consecutive segments

(27, 30, and 32 through 34). GT on segment 27 are not readily visible in the photograph (left). This can often be the case, depending on how well developed the clitellum is.

When the TP are underdeveloped each can appear as two circles or triangles side by side (see above). As the feature develops, the two sections merge to form the notched TP of the full adult. These species can sometimes be confused with A. trapezoides which does not have a notched TP.

  • Other Identifying Features:

  • non-pigmented

  • male pores on segment 15

  • clitellum on segments 27-34

  • size ranges generally between 9-15 cm (AT)

  • mouth proboscis is epilobic

A. tuberculata(above) has GT on

alternating segments only (30, 32, 34).


What can i do

What can I do?

  • Spread the word …

  • 2) Prevent further introductions

  • by avoiding activities that we know

  • spread earthworms.

  • 3) Alert us of new invasions!


Mission increase scientific literacy and public understanding

www.greatlakeswormwatch.org


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