Monthly Archives: August 2012

Earthling Bulletin #8

by Piter Kehoma Boll

The photosynthetic aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. Photo by Wikipedia user Jpeccoud. Extracted from Wikipedia.





Scientific Articles

(If you are willing to read some of the articles but got no access to them, please contact us and we’ll send you a copy through e-mail!)

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Friday Fellow: Bleeding Tooth Fungus

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Leia em português

 Our species today is a beautiful fungus, Hydnellum peckii, the bleeding tooth fungus. It was described in 1913 by Howard J. Banker and named after the botanist C. H. Peck who collected it at North Elba, New York.

Being a mushroom, its visible part is composed by its fruit bodies which can grow up to a height of 10.5 cm. When moist, these fruit bodies exude a red juice, giving the mushroom its beautiful aspect and its common name. Found through most of North America, as well as in Eurasia, it grows from the soil and it’s usually associated with conifers of the family Pinaceae, like the genera Pinus, Picea, Tsuga, Pseudotsuga and Abies.

Young specimen of Hydnellum peckii. Photo by Wikipedia user Bernypisa. Extracted from Wikipedia.

Even though it’s not poisonous, it has such a bitter taste that it turns out to be inedible. It wouldn’t be a good idea to eat it anyway, since it bioaccumulates the heavy element Cesium-137 in its mycelium.

H. peckii was revealed to have atromentin, an effective anticoagulant similar to the heparin which has also antibacterial activity against the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, inhibiting an enzyme essential to their biosynthesis of fatty acids. Other uses of atromentin include an stimulant of smooth muscles and an inductor of apoptosis in leukemia U937 cells.

Not only beautiful, it is also very useful for medical and ecological purposes.

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Banker, H. J. 1913. Type Studies in the Hydnaceae: V. The Genus Hydnellum. Mycologia, 5 (4), 194-205 DOI: 10.2307/3753385

Shiryaev, A. 2008. Diversity and distribution of thelephoroid fungi (Basidiomycota, Thelephorales) in the Sverdlovsk region, Russia. Folia Cryptogamica Estonica, 44, 131-141

Vinichuk, M. M.; Johanson, K. J. & Taylor, A. F. S. 2004. 137Cs in the fungal compartment of Swedish forest soils Science of The Total Environment, 323, 243-251 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2003.10.009

Wikipedia. Hydnellum peckii. Available online at <>. Access on August 10, 2012.


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How are little flatworms colored? A Geoplana vaginuloides analysis

by Piter Kehoma Boll As you already know, I work with land planarians, so there’s nothing more natural than seeing me talking about them. Today I’ll make a brief comment about the type species of the genus Geoplana which gives name to the family Geoplanidae (the land planarians themselves).

Geoplana vaginuloides was originally described by Charles Darwin in 1844 under the name Planaria vaginuloides. His description was based only on external morphology, which today is considered insufficient to describe correctly a land planarian. Later Stimpson (1857) moved it to his new genus Geoplana, but still only external features were used. By that time, no type species had been assigned to the genus and E. M. Froehlich (1955) decided to choose Geoplana vaginuloides (Darwin, 1844) as the type species for being the first one found by Darwin and one of the species put in the genus Geoplana by Stimpson when he described it.

It was only in 1990 that a good revision of land planarians was made by Ogren and Kawakatsu and the internal morphology, especially that of the copulatory apparatus, started to have a greater importance in describing a species correctly. Based on Geoplana vaginuloides, they defined the genus Geoplana as follows:

“Geoplanidae of elongate body form; creeping sole broader than a third of the body width; strong cutaneous longitudinal muscles; mc:h value from 4%-8%; parenchymal longitudinal musculature weak or absent, not in a ring zone; testes are dorsal; penis papilla present; female canal enters genital antrum dorsally; cephalic glandulo-muscular organs, sensory papillae and adenodactyls absent.” (Ogren & Kawakatsu, 1990).

As noticed by Riester (1938), G. vaginuloides possesses a very long penis papilla invading the female antrum, as well as other peculiar features. These aspects were important to consider a land planarian found by Marcus in 1951 as belonging to this species, even though it had external colors almost inverted when compared to the specimen described by Darwin.

Using the internal morphology to assure that all the following descriptions of land planarians belong to a single species, Geoplana vaginuloides, we can find at least 4 different external color patterns to this species:

  •  Darwin 1844:  “Ocelli numerous, placed at regular intervals on the anterior extremity; irregularly, round the edges of the foot. […] Sides of the foot coloured dirty “orpiment orange”; above, with two stripes on each side of pale “primrose-yellow,” edged externally with black; on centre of the back a stripe of glossy black; these stripes become narrow towards both extremities.”
    Locality: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  •  Riester, 1938: “Unterseite und Körperänder weinrot, dann zwei schmale gelbe Streifen und in der Rückenmitte ein tief Schwarz glänzendes breites Band.” (Underside and body edges wine red, then two narrow yellow stripes and in the middle of the back a deep black shiny broad band.)
    Locality: Teresópolis/Guapimirim, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Marcus, 1951: “A faixa mediana é ocre, na maior parte da extensão. Anterior e posteriormente é preta. Flanqueiam-na faixas amarelas claras, cada uma tão larga quão a mediana. As zonas dorso-laterais são pretas com pontinhos claros, que não são olhos. O ventre é claro.” (The median band is ochre in most of its length. Anteriorly and posteriorly it’s black. Light yellow bands flank it, each one as broad as the median one. The dorsolateral zones are black with white spots, which aren’t eyes. The venter is light.)
    Locality: Eldorado, São Paulo, Brazil
  • C. G. Froehlich, 1958: “The colour pattern is similar to type C of Marcus (1952, pp. 76-77, pl. 23 fig. 136) but the median reddish stripe is broader (about 1 mm. across, just in front of the pharynx), and both the black and the white stripes that follow on each side are narrower (about 0.2 to 0.3 mm broad each, in the same region). The median stripe begins at 2.5 mm from the anterior tip. The creeping sole is greyish white.”
    Locality: Itanhaém, São Paulo, Brazil

Different color patterns in Geoplana vaginuloides according do Darwin, 1844 (1), Riester, 1938 (2), Marcus, 1951 (3) and C. G. Froehlich, 1958 (4)

Location of the 4 morphotypes seen in the picture above. Image made on Google Earth.

Along with those descriptions, Prudhoe (1949), found an animal in Trinidad with the same external description given by Darwin, but its internal structure was very different from Riester (1938). So it was probably a different species.

About photographs of this species, I found only the three seen below. They all belong to specimens with a color pattern close to those described by Marcus and Froehlich. It would be interesting to find an animal with the color pattern from the original description by Darwin!

Geoplana vaginuloides (Darwin, 1844). Photo by Fernando Carbayo. Extracted from

Geoplana vaginuloides (Darwin, 1844). Photo by Fernando Carbayo. Extracted from

Geoplana vaginuloides (Darwin, 1844). Notice that this one doesn’t have the black border flanking the median orange band. Photo by Instituto Rã-Bugio. Extracted from

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Darwin, C. 1844. Brief Description of several Terrestrial Planariae, and of some remarkable Marine Species, with an Account of their Habits. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Annales des Sciences Naturelles, 14, 241-251

Froehlich, E. M. 1955. Sobre Espécies Brasileiras do Gênero Geoplana. Boletim da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da Universidade de São Paulo, Série Zoologia, 19, 289-339

Froehlich, C. G. 1958. On a Collection of Brazilian Land Planarians. Boletim da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da Universidade de São Paulo, Série Zoologia, 21, 93-121

Marcus, E. 1951. Turbellaria Brasileiros. Boletim da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da Universidade de São Paulo, Série Zoologia, 16, 5-215

Ogren, R. E. & Kawakatsu, M. 1990. Index to the species of the family Geoplanidae (Turbellaria, Tricladida, Terricola) Part I: Geoplaninae. Bulletin of Fuji Women’s College, 28, 79-166

Prudhoe, S. 1949. Some roundworms and flatworms from the West Indies and Surinam. – IV. Land Planarians. Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology, 41 (281), 420-433 DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.1940.tb02415.x

Riester, A. 1938. Beiträge zur Geoplaniden-Fauna Brasiliens. Abhandlungen der senkenbergischen naturforschenden Gesellschaft, 441, 1-88

Stimpson, W. 1857. Prodromus descriptionis animalium evertebratorum quæ in Expeditione ad Oceanum, Pacificum Septentrionalem a Republica Federata missa, Johanne Rodgers Duce, observavit er descripsit. Pars I. Turbellaria Dendrocœla. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 19-31


Filed under Ecology, Systematics, Zoology

Friday Fellow: Soft Snake

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Leia em português

Our Friday Fellow today was chosen because it was seen in the last days in Brazilian news websites and blogs. Its name is Atretochoana eiselti and it is a rare species of caecilian amphibian found in Brazil. One of its main pecularities is that it lacks any lungs and, being about 80 cm long, is the largest lungless tetrapod known.

Atretochoana eiselti found in the Madeira River on July 31, 2012. Photo by Juliano Tupan. Extracted from wikipedia.

Initially it was known from a single specimen found in 1968, until a second one was found in 1998. As with all caecilians, it lacks legs and has very reduced eyes. Very little is known about it yet, but it seems to be mostly aquatic in its habits rather than terrestrial as most caecilians, which is somewhat supported by the presence of a small dorsal fin.

After the two original specimens, new ones were only found in 2011 in the Madeira River, Brazil. Those were the first individuals reported in their natural habitat, but, unusually, this river has warmer waters than expected for a species which lacks lungs, since warmer water has less oxygen.

During 2012, more specimens were found in the same river. Now let’s hope that, knowing their natural habitat, we will be able to decipher some of the mysteries still sorrounding this unusual creature.

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Hoogmoed, M. S.; Maciel, A. O. and Coragem, J. T. (2011). Discovery of the largest lungless tetrapod, Atretochoana eiselti (Taylor, 1968) (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Typhlonectidae), in its natural habitat in Brazilian Amazonia Boletim do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi : Ciências Naturais, 6 (3), 241-262

Wikipedia. Atretochoana. Available online at <>. Access on August 2, 2012.

Wilkinson, M.; Sebben, A; Schwartz, E. N. F. and Schwartz, C. A. 1998. The largest lungless tetrapod: report on a second specimen of Atretochoana eiselti (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Typhlonectidae) from Brazil Journal of Natural History, 32, 617-627 DOI: 10.1080/00222939800770321

Ximenes, M. 2012. Anfíbio com formato de cobra é descoberto no Rio Madeira, em RO. G1. Access on August 2, 2012.

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