Unknown whereabouts: the lack of biogeographical references of species

by Piter Kehoma Boll

ResearchBlogging.org Biogeography, as you may know, is the study of the distribution of species or ecosystems through the planet. The knowledge which comes from biogeographical surveys is valuable information for other areas, like ecology, evolutionary biology, geology and paleontology, as well as for conservation purposes. Knowing the distribution of a species may help to determine places of higher priority for conservation, as well as helping to trace an evolutionary pathway or even to determine an ancient geological event.

Despite all this advantages coming from biogeographical studies, many species have a sparse distribution record, or don’t have any at all. That’s more usual concerning “less attractive” groups, like, for example, worms or mosses, which don’t have many researchers interested in them.

I will give here an example among a species I work with. It’s a land planarian, of course; what else could it be? Anyway, the species I’m talking about is called Geoplana marmorata. Here you can see a picture of it:

Geoplana marmorata Schultze & Müller, 1857 from Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Photo by Piter Kehoma boll.

G. marmorata was described in 1857 by Schultze & Müller based on material coming from Blumenau, a city in the state of Santa Catarina, southern Brazil. Later, Graff, in 1899, misidentified it as a variety of Geoplana rufiventris, another species described by Schultze & Müller in the same paper as G. marmorata. This misidentification happened probably due to the specimens examined by Graff being old ones which were kept too much time in a preservative medium, probably ethanol, making them lose their original color as when alive.

About 50 years later, in 1959, C. G. Froehlich corrected this mistake and also expanded its distribution for a new location, Rio do Testo, not that far from Blumenau. In 1967, C. G. Froehlich again expanded its known distribution to include Argentina.

There are no further publications concerning the distribution of G. marmorata, except for a paper by E. M. Froehlich, from 1978, about a Chilean species, G. caleta, which resembles G. marmorata both in external and internal morphology, but the minor differences and the great distance separating both groups seem to point to different species, though probably closely related phylogenetically.

Anyway, so concerning only what’s now found through papers, G. marmorata is only know to happen in Argentina and the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Well, here I say that its distribution is far greater.

Despite not being recorded in any species survey in forest remains of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state, G. marmorata is indeed found there. We, researchers from Instituto de Pesquisa de Planárias, Unisinos, know this species very well since it is found very frequently in urban environment in the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre, as well as in Santa Maria, a city in the center of the state.

I was kind of shocked as I figured out that there are no publications regarding its presence in Rio Grande do Sul. This just made me wonder about how much scientists know and, as it seems so obvious and natural, they don’t publish it, so retaining essential knowledge, which could be so useful to other researches, simply because of some lack of attention.

This has motivated me to write a paper updating the distribution of land planarian species from Rio Grande do Sul as soon as I have time, based on our protocol records at Instituto de Pesquisa de Planárias. And as a final request, I ask to those who work with research to pay attention to those subjects, so that they don’t get neglected as much.

– – –


Froehlich, C. G. 1959. On Geoplanids from Brazil. Boletim da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da Universidade de São Paulo, Série Zoologia, 22, 201-265

Froehlich, C. G. 1967. A contribution to the zoogeography of neotropical land planarians. Acta Zoologica Lilloana, 23, 151-162

Froehlich, E. M. 1978. On a collection of Chilean landplanarians Boletim da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da Universidade de São Paulo, Série Zoologia, 3, 7-80

Graff, L. v. 1899. Monographie der Turbellarien. II. Tricladida Terricola. Engelmann, Leipzig, 574 p.

Schultze, M., & Müller, F. 1857. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Landplanarien. Abhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft zu Halle, 4, 61-74


Filed under Conservation, Ecology

6 responses to “Unknown whereabouts: the lack of biogeographical references of species

  1. sylvain

    hi! i’m living in Bordeaux (France) and i got in my garden a very similary flat worm like this geoplana marmorata.
    here in France they don’t know the origin and the name of this flat worm and it’s signal in 20 little région of France.
    do you things it could be the same flatworm off the goeplana marmorata?
    i got pictures of it.

    • Piter Keo

      Hello, Sylvain.
      A land planarian very similar to Obama marmorata (Geoplana marmorata has been changed to a new genus, Obama, last year) has indeed been found recently in many localities in France, as well as Spain and United Kingdom according to some information from European researches. It is probably Obama marmorata itself, though molecular studies are still needed to confirm it.

      • sylvain

        thanks for your answer. i start to farm it at my home to observ, since 2 weeks. allready see a born( two little baby)), and this morning a egg give me 9 little worms in the night. it’s scary!. it’s possible i made a mistake but one off my worm get pregnant two times in 10 days..need time to vérify this rythm.
        i’m really woried about my garden when i see the genération capacity!. the worms seems to prefer a lot,very little snails, don’t really looks interest for slugs or earth worms. with time i’m going to test others preys… i’m in contact with Professor Justine here in France.

      • Piter Keo

        According to my observations, it’s common for Neotropical land planarians to produce 2 to 3 egg capsules in a row, being possibly the result of a single mating. Do you know to which species the snails, slugs and earthworms you offered belong? My specimens, collected from their native locality, fed on small snails and small slugs, but they seemed to prefer earthworms, though it was hard to make them eat while observing them, possibly due to the light, but an earthworm let in the terrarium with them was always eaten after a couple of days.

  2. sylvain

    thanks, your answer are very interesting,i wasn’t on the road to think that with one shot a worm can give several birth during few weeks!
    i have notice the difficulty to feed them and the rare times i see them feed, i put them on light for the camera and you right with light they stop their action and run.
    for the spécies, i think the earth worm was a eisenia, worms use for composting, but it seems it’s not their cup of tea.
    for the snail i try 2 different snail look like hélicigona lapicida and oxychilus spp merlina glabra. they like it
    for the slug i try two spécies, one very little (less 1 cm) black, and a claear brown, between 0.5 and 3 cm .they sleep near the little black and never touch it. one time a brown slug died but wasn’t eaten, the others stay alive after few days with the flat worms.
    for information ,i m just a lamda french civilian, and not a scientific. so that i can’t named spécies and things like that.

  3. Pingback: They only care if you are cute: how charisma harms biodiversity | Earthling Nature

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