Author Archives: Piter Keo

About Piter Keo

I'm a biology student, currently working with land planarians. I love biology, astronomy, languages and mythology, among other things.

Friday Fellow: Large Roundworm of Pigs

by Piter Kehoma Boll

It’s time to go back to the roundworms and to the parasites once more. Probably one of the most famous roundwors is the large roundworm of humans, Ascaris lumbricoides, but today I’m going to talk about its closest relative, the large roundworm of pigs, Ascaris suum.

Found worlwide, the large roundworm of pigs, as its name implies, infects pigs. It is a large worm of the phylum Nematoda and is very similar to the large roundworm of humans, the main difference being simply that the former infects pigs and the latter infects humans.

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A typical male (top) and female (bottom) of Ascaris suum. Photo by Wikimedia user VlaminckJ.*

The adult worms live in the intestine of pigs and show sexual dimorphism. Males are smaller, measuring 13–31 cm in length and have a curled posterior end. Females are larger, measuring 20–49 cm and do not have the curled posterior end. They have a light pink to whitish color and may occur in large quantities inside the host.

When sexually mature, a female can lay up to 200 thousand eggs per day and have up to 27 million eggs in its uteri. The eggs are eliminated with the pig feces and remain in the environment where the embryo starts its development. As soon as the eggs are eaten by a pigg, the eggs hatch and the larvae crawl into the walls of the large intestine and reach the bloodstream, being carried to the liver and from there to the lungs. In the lungs, they reach the alveoli and start to migrate upward toward the trachaea and are coughed up and swallowed by the pig, reaching the intestine again. There, they remain in the small intestine and complete their development into adults.

The great similarity of Ascaris suum and Ascaris lumbricoides implicate that they have a recent common ancestor which may have split into the two species after humans started to raise pigs. Eventually Ascaris suum may also infect humans and Ascaris lumbricoides may infect pigs too, but they seem to have a preference and an improved development in their “traditional” host. Molecular studies indicate that the populations of both species seem to be considerable isolated, but there have been some eventual hybridizations, suggesting that they are yet in the process of become fully separate species.

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References:

Leles, D.; Gardner, S. L.; Reinhard, K.; Iñiguez, A.; Araujo, A. (2012) Are Ascaris lumbricoides and Ascaris suum a single species? Parasite and Vector5: 42. https://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-5-42

Wikipedia. Ascaris suum. Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascaris_suum >. Access on November 6, 2017.

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The history of Systematics: Plants in Systema Naturae, 1758 (Part 7)

by Piter Kehoma Boll

We are approaching the end of the description of Linnaeus’ classification of Plants (see parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). Today I’ll show two more classes, the last two of plants with mainly hermaphrodite flowers.

19. Syngenesia (“same generation”)

“Husbands composed of a generative compact”, i.e., the stamens are united, forming a cylinder.

19.1 Syngenesia Polygamia Aequalis (“same generation, many equal marriages”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers, all having stamens and pistils: Scolymus (golden thistles), Cichorium (chicories), Catananche (cupid’s darts), Hypochaeris (cat’s ears), Andryala (andryalas), Tragopogon (goatsbeards), Picris (oxtongues), Leontodon (hawkbits and dandelions), Sonchus (sow thistles), Scorzonera (salsifies), Crepis (hawksbeards), Chondrilla (skeletonweeds), Prenanthes (rattlesnake roots), Lactuca (lettuces), Hieracium (hawkweeds), Lapsana (nippleworts), Hyoseris (hyoserises), Elephantopus (elephant’s foot), Atractylis (spindle thistles), Carlina (carline thistles), Cnicus (thistles), Arctium (burdocks), Carthamus (distaff thistles), Cynara (alcachofras), Carduus (more thistles), Onopordum (cotton thistles), Serratula (plumeless saw-worts), Echinops (globe thistles), Ageratum (whiteweeds), Cacalia (false plantains), Chrysocoma (goldenhairs), Eupatorium (thoroughworts), Santolina (cotton lavenders), Bidens (beggarticks), Staehelina (staehelinas), Stoebe (stoebes), Tarchonanthus (camphor bush).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_aequalis

The diverse order Syngenesia Polygamia Aequalis included (from left to right, top to bottom) the common goatsbeard (Tragopogon porrifolius), black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica), bristly oxtongue (Picris echioides, now Helminthotheca echioides), common sowthistle (Sonchus oleraceus), garden lettuce (Lactuca sativa), rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea), common rattlesnake root (Prenanthes purpurea), common dandelion (Leontodon taraxacum, now Taraxacum officinale), rattlesnake hawkweed (Hieracium venosum), beaked hawksbeard (Crepis vesicaria), common andryala (Andryala integrifolia), smooth hyoseris (Hyoseris scabra), common cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata), common nipplewort (Lapsana communis), blue cupid’s dart (Catananche caerulea), common chicory (Cichorium intybus), Spanish golden thistle (Scolimus hispanicus), smooth elephant’s foot (Elephantopus scaber), great globe thistle (Echinops sphaerocephalus), great burdock (Arctium lappa), dyer’s plumeless saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria), musk thistle (Carduus nutans), holy thistle (Cnicus benedictus, now Centaurea benedicta), common cotton thistle (Onopordum acanthium), globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus), common carline thistle (Carlina vulgaris), common spindle thistle (Atractylus huilis), safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), common beggartick (Bidens pilosa), Alpine plantain (Cacalia alpina, now Adenostyles alpina), tall thoroughwort (Eupatorium altissimum), common whiteweed (Ageratum conyzoides), dubious staehelina (Staehelina dubia), common goldenhair (Chrysocoma coma-aurea), camphor bush (Tarchonanthus camphoratus), and common cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus). Credits to Stephen Lea (goatsbeard), H. Zell (salsify, lettuce, cotton thistle), Tony Wills (sow thistle), Radio Toreng (skeletonweed), Jane Shelby Richardson (hawkweed), Manfred Moitzi (hawksbeard), Pablo Alberto Salguero Quilles (andryala), smooth hyoseris (Hyoseris scabra), Javier Martin (hyoseris, spindle thistle), Phil Sellens (nipplewort), Isidre Blanc (cupid’s dart, staehelina), Joaquim Alves Gaspar (chicory, golden thistle, globe artichoke), Dinesh Valke (elephant’s foot), Enrico Blasutto (burdock), Kristian Peters (plumeless saw-wort), Bernd Haynold (musk thistle), Philipp Weigell (carline thistle), Vishesh Bajpai (beggartick),Benjammin Zwittnig (Alpine plantain), Frank Mayfield (thoroughwort), Peter A. Mansfeld (goldenhair), Paul Venter (camphor bush), Marie-Lan Nguyen (cotton lavender), and Wikimedia users AnemoneProjectors (oxtongue, cat’s ear), Calimo (rattlesnake root), Kropsoq (dandelion), Epp (globe thistle), 00temari (holy thistle), Pseudoanas (safflower) and Leoadec (whiteweed).*

19.2 Syngenesia Polygamia Superflua (“same generation, many remaining marriages”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers forming a central disk of hermaphrodite flowers surrounded by a ring of feminine flowers. Both hermaphrodite and feminine flowers are fertile and produce seeds: Tanacetum (tansies), Artemisia (artemisias), Gnaphalium (cudweeds), Xeranthemum (dry everlastings), Carpesium (carpesiums), Baccharis (baccharises), Conyza (horseweeds), Erigeron (fleabanes), Tussilago (coltsfoots), Senecio (ragworts and groundsels), Aster (asters), Solidago (goldenrods), Inula (inulas), Arnica (arnicas), Doronicum (leopard’s banes), Helenium (sneezeweeds), Bellis (daisies), Tagetes (marigolds), Zinnia (zinnias), Pectis (cinchweeds), Chrysanthemum (chrysanthemums and daisies), Matricaria (chamomiles), Cotula (water buttons), Anacyclus (anacycles), Anthemis (false chamomiles), Achillea (yarrows), Tridax (coatbuttons), Amellus (amelluses), Sigesbeckia (St. Paul’s worts), Verbesina (crownbeards), Tetragonotheca (neverays), Buphthalmum (ox-eyes).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_superflua

Linnaeus put this species in the order Syngenesia Polygamia Superflua (from left to right, top to bottom): common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), heath cudweed (Gnaphalium sylvaticum), annual dry everlasting (Xeranthemum anuum), saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), one-flower fleabane (Erigeron uniflorus), common coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris), Italian aster (Aster amellus), seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), hairy inula (Inula hirta), mountain arnica (Arnica montana), common leopard’s bane (Doronicum pardalianches), common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), common daisy (Bellis perennis), French marigold (Tagetes patula), Peruvian zinnia (Zinnia peruviana), Indian chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum indicum), common chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), buttonweed (Cotula coronopifolia), common anacycle (Anacyclus valentinus), sea false-chamomile (Anthemis maritima), common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), coatbuttons (Tridax procumbens), eastern St. Paul’s wort (Siegesbeckia orientalis), ox-eye (Buphthalmum salicifolium>). Credits to Muriel Bendel (tansy), Hermann Schachner (cudweed), Musa Geçit (dry everlasting), Bob Peterson (saltbush, coatbuttons), André Karwath (coltsfoot, daisy), C T Johansson (aster), Sam Fraser-Smith (goldenrod), Kurt Stüber (inula), Isidre Blanc (arnica), Agnieszka Kwiecien (sneezeweed), Lynda Poulter (chamomile), Walter Siegmund (buttonweed), Denis Barthel (false-chamomile), Petar Milošević (yarrow), and Wikimedia users N-Baudet (wormwood), Ghislain118 (fleabane), AnRo0002 (groundsel), Jamain (leopard’s bane, ox-eye), Rasbak (marigold), Vengolis (zinnia), Joydeep (chrysanthemum), Philmarin (anacycle) and Elouanne (St. Paul’s wort).

19.3 Syngenesia Polygamia Frustranea (“same generation, many marriages in vain”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers forming a central disk of hermaphrodite flowers surrounded by a ring of neutral flowers, without sexual organs, therefore only the flowers of the disk are fertile and produce seeds: Helianthus (sunflowers), Rudbeckia (black-eyed-susans), Coreopsis (coreopsises), Gorteria (gorterias), Centaurea (knapweeds), Gundelia (gundelia).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_frustranea

The order Syngenesia Polygamia Frustranea included (from left to right) the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), common black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), lance-leaved coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), bachelor’s button (Centaurea montana), gundelia (Gundelia tournefortii). Credits to Frank Mayfield (black-eyed susan), Jean-Pol Grandmont (bachelor’s button), Gundelia (gundelia) and Wikimedia users i_am_jim (sunflower) and KENPEI (coreopsis).*

19.4 Syngenesia Polygamia Necessaria (“same generation, many unavoidable marriages”), compound flowers formed by several small compact flowers forming a central disk of hermaphrodite flowers, but whose feminine part is sterile, surrounded by a ring of fertile feminine flowers, therefore only the flowers of the ring produce seeds: Milleria (millerias), Silphium (rosinweeds), Chrysogonum (golden knees), Melampodium (blackfoots), Calendula (pot marigolds), Arctotis (bear’s ears), Osteospermum (daisybushes), Othonna (othonnas), Polymnia (leafcups), Eriocephalus (snow bushes), Filago (cudweeds), Micropus (cotton seeds), Sphaeranthus (ballflowers).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_polygamia_necessaria

These 7 species were included by Linnaeus in the order Syngenesia Polygamia Necessaria (from left to right, top to bottom): starry rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus), common golden knee (Chrysogonum virginianum), common pot-marigold (Calendula officinalis), whiteflower leafcup (Polymnia canadensis), Cape snow bush (Eriocephalus africanus), common cudweed (Filago germanica, now Filago vulgaris), Indian ballflower (Sphaeranthus indicus). Credits to James H. Miller (rosinweed), Fritz Flohr Reynolds (golden knee, leafcup), Wouter Hagens (pot marigold), Juanita Vilas Marchant (snow bush), Wim Rubers (cudweed), Dinnesh Valke (balflower).*

19.5 Syngenesia Monogamia (“same generation, one marriage”), stamens united forming a cylinder, but with single flowers, not forming inflorescences: Seriphium (seriphiums), Corymbium (plampers), Jasione (scabiouses), Lobelia (lobelias), Viola (violets and pansies), Impatiens (balsams).

1758Linnaeus_syngenesia_monogamia

The sheep’s scabious (Jasione montana, left), garden lobelia (Lobelia erinus, center left), common violet (Viola odorata, center right), and garden balsam (Impatiens balsamina, right) were part of the order Syngenesia Monogamia. Credits to André Karwath (lobelia), Bernard Dupont (violet) and Wikimedia users Darkone (scabious) and Joydeep (balsam).*

20. Gynandria (“female husband”)

“Husbands monstruously united to women”, i.e., flowers with stamens united to the pistils.

20.1 Gynandria Diandria (“female husband, two husbands”), two stamens united to the pistils: Orchis (orchids), Satyrium (satyre orchids), Ophrys (fly and bee orchids), Serapias (Serapis orchids), Limodorum (grass pinks), Arethusa (dragon’s mouth and snake’s mouths), Cypripedium (lady’s slippers orchids), Epidendrum (epiphytic orchids).

 

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_diandria

The order Gynandria Diandria included (from left to right, top to bottom) the military orchid (Orchis militaris), fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera), tuberous grass pink (Limodorum tuberosum, now Calopogon tuberosus), dragon’s mouth (Arethusa bulbosa), yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), spathulate vanda (Epidendrum spathulatum, now Taprobanea spathulata). Credits to Holger Krisp (military orchid, fly orchid), Chris Meloche (dragon’s mouth), and Wikimedia users Algirdas (lady’s slipper) and CyberWikipedian (vanda).*

20.2 Gynandria Triandria (“female husband, three husbands”), three stamens united to the pistils: Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed grasses).

20.3 Gynandria Tetrandria (“female husband, four husbands”), four stamens united to the pistils: Nepenthes (pitcher plants).

20.4 Gynandria Pentandria (“female husband, five husbands”), five stamens united to the pistils: Ayenia (ayenias), Passiflora (passion flowers).

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_triandria_tetrandria_pentandria

The common blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bermudianum, left) was the only member of the order Gynandria Triandria. The distiller pitcher-plant (Nepenthes distillatoria, center) was the only member of the order Gynandria Tetrandria. The purple passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) was one of the members of the order Gynandria Pentandria. Credits to Wouter Hagens (blue-eyed grass), James & Jana Hans (pitcher-plant), Oliver P. Quillia (passion flower).*

20.5 Gynandria Hexandria (“female husband, six husbands”), six stamens united to the pistils: Aristolochia (pipevines), Pistia (water lettuce).

20.6 Gynandria Decandria (“female husband, ten husbands”), ten stamens united to the pistils: Helicteres (screw trees).

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_hexandria_decandria

The order Gynandria Hexandria included the smearwort (Aristolochia rotunda, left) and the water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes, center). The order Gynandria Decandria included the Indian screw tree (Helicteres isora, right). Credits to J. M. Garg (screw tree) and Wikimedia users Hectonichus (smearwort) and Keisotyo (water lettuce).*

20.7 Gynandria Polyandria (“female husband, many husbands”), many stamens united to the pistils: Xylopia (xylopias), Grewia (crossberries), Arum (arums), Dracontium (arum yams), Calla (callas), Pothos (pothos), Zostera (eelgrasses).

1758Linnaeus_gynandria_polyandria

The order Gynandria Polyandria included (from left to right) the crossberry (Grewia occidentalis), dragon arum (Arum dracunculus, now Dracunculus vulgaris), elephant-foot yam (Dracontium polyphyllum, now Amorphophallus paeoniifolius), wild calla (Calla palustris) and climbing pothos (Pothos scandens). Credits to P. Pickaert (arum), Kurt Stüber (calla), and Wikimedia users Consultaplantas (crossberry), Fotokannan (yam) and Vinayaraj (pothos).*

As you can see, the class Syngenesia is much more regular than the class Gynandria. Most species of Syngenesia are currently included in the family Asteraceae. Gynandria, on the other hand, includes a variety of unrelated plants, including orchids, arum plants and even passion flowers!

Here we finish all plants with hermaphroditic flowers. We only need to more posts and we will have seen the whole system of Linnaeus!

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References:

Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae per regna tria Naturae…

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Friday Fellow: Duckweed Chain Flatworm

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Today we have one more flatworm in our team. It is part of the most bizarre group of flatworms, the so-called Catenulida. Our fellow is called Catenula lemnae, which I adapted as the “duckweed chain flatworm”.

The duckweed chain flatworm is a very small animal, measuring about 0.1 mm in width and about two or three times this size in length. It is found worldwide in freshwater lakes and ponds and is likely a complex of species, but more detailed studies are needed to make it clear. As other catenulids, it lives close to the substract, being considered a benthic animal, and feeds on other smaller organisms, such as small invertebrates and algae. It is usually a dominant species in the community of benthic microanimals, such as microturbellarians, in places where it is found.

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A chain of several connected individuals (zooids) of Catenula lemnae. Photo by Christopher Laumer.*

The word catenula, meaning “little chain” in Latin, was given to these animals because of their peculiar way of vegetative reproduction. The organism frequently divides transversally close to the posterior end, giving rise to new organisms that are genetically identical to the original one. However, the new animals often remain connected to each other for a long time before splitting, and as this asexual reproduction continues, it eventually turn them into a chain of connected individuals (called zooids). This chain swims elegantly using its cilia as if it were a single individual.

Most recent studies mentioning the duckeed chain flatworm are simply surveys of the species composition of a certain area or broad phylogenetic studies on the catenulids or flatworms in general. Little is known about the ecology, behavior and population structuring of this species, unfortunately.

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References:

Braccini, J. A. L.; Leal-Zanchet, A. M. (2013)  Turbellarian assemblages in freshwater lagoons in southern Brazil. Invertebrate Biology132(4): 305–314. https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ivb.12032

Marcus, E. (1945) Sôbre Catenulida brasileiros. Boletim da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da Universidade de São Paulo, série Zoologia, 10: 3–113.

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Friday Fellow: Chinese Magnolia Vine

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Coming from the forests of Northern China, Korea and Eastern Russia, our newest fellow is a woody vine called Schisandra chinensis and populary known as Chinese magnolia vine.

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The beautiful red fruits of the Chinese magnolia vine. Photo by Vladimir Kosolapov.*

Used in Chinese traditional medicine, the plant is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. The part of the plant most commonly used are the berries, which are known as magnolia berries or five-flavor-fruits. The second name is a translation of the Chinese name, 五味子 (wǔwèizi), because the berry is said to contain all five basic Chinese flavors: salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter. An infusion prepared with the dried fruits is called omija tea or omija-cha, from the Korean name of the fruits.

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A cup of omija tea. Photo by Raheel Shahid.**

The traditional uses of the Chinese magnolia vine included the treatment of disorders related mainly to the sexual organs. Several current studies by laboratory trials indicated that the plant has a large number of beneficial properties, including antioxidant properties and the ability to increase endurance, working ability, accuracy of movements and mental ability. It also seems to be useful in the treatment of several diseases and disorders, especially inflamatory ones, such as sinusitis, otitis, neuritis, dermatitis and gastritis, as well as on some infectious diseases such as influenza and pneumonia, among many other conditions.

I’m certainly interested in trying a cup of omija tea. What about you? Have you ever had the chance?

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References:

Panossian, A.; Wikman, G. (2008) Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 118(2): 183-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2008.04.020

Wikipedia. Schisandra chinensis. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schisandra_chinensis >. Access on October 31, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Brown Mussel

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Until now, the mollusks featured here included a chiton, a cephalopod and two gastropods. So it is time to bring a bivalve. And what would be better than showing you a common mollusk from the South Atlantic Ocean?

Living on rocky shores around South America and Africa, our fellow is called Perna perna, or populary brown mussel. In places where it lives, it can be found in great concentrations, sometimes covering large areas of rocks. It usually measures about 90 mm in length, but some larger specimens may reach up to 120 mm. The increased surface area on the rocks they occupy attract other rock-living marine species, such as barnacles, limpets, snails and algae.

Perna_perna

Some specimens of Perna perna growing on an oyster in South Africa. Photo by Bernadette Hubbart.*

The brown mussel is a filter feeder, as most bivalves, feeding on suspended organic matter, as well as on small microrganisms, such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. As a prey, it is eaten by a variety of animals, such as sea birds, crustaceans and mollusks. Humans also consume it in both South America and Africa. Its ingestion, however, must be cautious, as it may contain toxins from dinoflagellates that it ingested, as well as heavy metals from water pollutants.

Spread through the world by humans after attaching itself on ships, the brown mussel has become invasive in other parts, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, and it continues to increase its occupied area. This can have deleterious effects both ecologically and economically, as it may displace native species and also cause damage to human equipments. It is, therefore, one more species that became a problem due to us, humans. And the damage will not be easy to be repared.

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References:

Ferreira, A. G.; Machado, A. L. S.; Zalmon, I. R. (2004) Temporal and spatial variation on heavy metal concentrations in the bivalve Perna perna (LINNAEUS, 1758) on the northern coast of Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology 47(2): 319–327. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1516-89132004000200020

Holland, B. S. (2001) Invasion without a bottleneck: microsatellite variation in natural and invasive populations of the brown mussel Perna perna (L). Marine Biotechnology 3, 407–415. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s1012601-0060-Z

Wikipedia. Perna perna. Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perna_perna >. Access on October 21, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Yellow Morel

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Time for our next fungus, and this time it is a delicious one, or at least I think so, as I have never eaten it. Scientifically known as Morchella esculenta, its common names include common morel, yellow morel, true morel or simply morel.

576px-old_holiday_shot_of_morchella_esculenta_28gb3d_morel_mushroom2c_d3d_speise-morchel2c_nl3d_gewone_morielje29_-_panoramio

A fruiting body of the yellow morel in France. Photo by Henk Monster.*

Common in North America and Europe, as well as in some parts of Asia, especially in wooden areas, the yellow morel is a popular edible fungus of the phylum Ascomycota, so it is not closely related to the more common mushrooms, but it is a relative of the truffles, for example.

Morels are usually easily recognizable due to their peculiar appearance. Appearing during spring, their fruiting body is more or less oval in shape, covered with irregular pits and ridges, and hollow.

450px-morchella-esculenta-001

An open morel showing its hollowness. Photo by Wikimedia user 00Amanita00.*

Although being one of the most highly prized mushrooms, morels can give you some undesirable effects, such as gastrointestinal problems, if eaten raw or if too old. So, it is advisable to eat young mushrooms and at least blanching them before consumption. As they are hollow, it is common to eat them stuffed with vegetables or meat.

Pharmacological and biochemical studies revealed that the yellow morel has many healthy properties, such as the presence of antioxidants and substances that stimulate the immune system, as well as anti-inflammatory and antitumour properties. It is certainly a food that is worth to include in our diet, too bad that is tends to be kind of expensive…

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References:

Duncan, C. J. G.; Pugh, N.; Pasco, D. S.; Ross, S. A. (2002) Isolation of galactomannan that enhances macrophage activation from the edible fungs Morchella esculentaJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 50(20): 5683–5695. DOI: 10.1021/jf020267c

Mau, J.-L.; Chang, C.-N.; Huang, S.-J.; Chen, C.-C. (2004) Antioxidant properties of methanolic extracts from Grifola frondosa, Morchella esculenta and Termitomyces albuminosus mycelia. Food Chemistry, 87(1): 111-118.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2003.10.026

Nitha, B.; Meera, C. R.; Janardhanan, K. K. (2007) Anti-inflammatory and antitumour activities of cultured mycelium of morel mushroom, Morchella esculentaCurrent Science, 92(2): 235–239.

Wikipedia. Morchella esculenta. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morchella_esculenta >. Access on October 31, 2017.

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The hammerhead flatworms: once a mess, now even messier

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Few people know that land planarians exist, but when they do, they most likely know the hammerhead flatworms, which comprise the subfamily Bipaliinae.

The hammerhead flatworms, or simply hammerhead worms, have this name because their head has lateral expansions that make them resemble a hammer, a shovel or a pickaxe. Take a look:

Bipalium_vagum

The “wandering hammerhead worm”, Bipalium vagum. Notice the peculiar head. Photo by flickr user budak.*

The Chinese knew the hammerhead worms at least since the 10th century, which is understandable, since they are distributed from Japan to Madagascar, including all southern and southeast Asia, as well as Indonesia, the Philippines and other archipelagos. The western world, however, first heard of them in 1857, when William Stimpson described the first species and put them in a genus called Bipalium, from Latin bi- (two) + pala (shovel), due to the head shape. One of them was the species Bipalium fuscatum, a Japanese species that is currently considered the type species of the genus.

800px-bipalium_fuscatum_by_head

Anterior region of Bipalium fuscatum, the “brownish hammerhead worm”. Photo by Wikimedia user 根川大橋.**

Two years later, in 1859, Ludwig K. Schmarda described one more species, this one from Sri Lanka, and, unaware of Stimpson’s paper, called the species Sphyrocephalus dendrophilus, erecting the new genus for it from Greek sphȳra (hammer) + kephalē (head).

Sphyrocephalus_dendrophilus

Drawings by Schmarda of Sphyrocephalus dendrophilus.

In the next year, 1860, Edward P. Wright did something similar and described some hammerhead worms from India and China, creating a new genus, Dunlopea, for them. The name was a homage to his friend A. Dunlop (whoever he was).

Dunlopea_grayia

Wright’s Drawing of Dunlopea grayia (now Diversibipalium grayi) from China.

Eventually those errors were perceived and all species were put in the genus Bipalium, along with several others described in the following years. All hammerhead worms were part of the genus Bipalium until 1896, when Ludwig von Graff decided to improve the classification and divided them into three genera:

1. Bipalium: With a head having long “ears”, a well developed head.
2. Placocephalus (“plate head”): With a more semicircular head.
3. Perocephalus (“mutilated head”): With a shorter, rudimentary head, almost as if it had been cut off.

Bipaliids

Compare the heads of typical species of Bipalium (left), Placocephalus (center) and Perocephalus (right), according to Graff.

This system, however, was soon abandoned and everything went back to be simply Bipalium and continued that way for almost a century, changing again only in 1998, when Kawakatsu and his friends started to mess with the penises of the hammerhead worms.

First, in 1998, they erected the genus Novibipalium (“new Bipalium“) for species with a reduced or absent penis papilla, and retained in Bipalium those with a “well”-developed penis papilla. It is worth noticing though that this well-developed papilla is not much bigger than a reduced papilla in Novibipalium. In both genera the actual, functional penis is formed by a set of folds in the male atrium and not by the penis papilla itself as in other land planarians that have a penis papilla.

Later, in 2001, Ogren & Sluys separated some more species of Bipalium in a new genus called Humbertium (after Aloïs Humbert, who described most species of this new genus). They were separated from Bipalium because the ovovitelloducts (the ducts that conduct the eggs and vitellocites) enter the female atrium from ahead, and not from behind as in the typical Bipalium. This separation is, in my opinion, more reasonable than the previous one.

Now we had three genera of hammerhead worms based on their internal anatomy, but several species were described without any knowledge of their sexual organs. Thus, in 2002, Kawakatsu and his friends created one more genus, Diversibipalium (the “diverse Bipalium“) to include all species whose anatomy of the sexual organs was unknown. In other words, it is a “wastebasket” genus to place them until they are better studied.

Are these three genera, Bipalium, Novibipalium and Humbertium, as now defined, natural? We still don’t know, but I bet they are not. A good way to check it would be by using molecular phylogeny, but we don’t have people working with these animals in their natural habitats, so we do not have available material for that. Another thing that can give us a hint is to look at their geographical distribution. We can assume that genetically similar species, especially of organisms with such a low dispersal ability as land planarians, all occur in the same geographical region, right? So where do we find species of each genus? Let’s see:

Bipalium: Indonesia, Japan, China, Korea, India.

Novibipalium: Japan.

Humbertium: Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Southern India, Indonesia.

Weird, right? They are completely mixed and covering a huge area of the planet, especially when we consider Humbertium. We can see a tendency, but nothing very clear.

Fortunately, some molecular analyses were published (see Mazza et al. (2016) in the references). One, which included the species Bipalium kewense, B. nobile, B. adventitium, Novibipalium venosum and Diversibipalium multilineatum placed Diversibipalium multilineatum very close to Bipalium nobile, and they are in fact very similar, so I guess that we can transfer it from Diversibipalium to Bipalium, right? Similary, Novibipalium venosum appears mixed with the species of Bipalium. I guess this is kind of messing things up one more time.

681px-bipalia_invasive

Head of some species of Bipalium, including the ones used in the study cited above. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo or drawing of Novibipalium venosum. Image by myself, Piter Kehoma Boll.**

Interestingly, among the analyzed species, the most divergent was Bipalium adventitium, whose head is “blunter” than that of the other ones. Could the head be the answer, afterall? Let’s hope that someone with the necessary resources is willing to solve this mess soon.

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See also:

Once found and then forgotten: the not-so-bright side of taxonomy.

The lack of taxonomists and its consequences on ecology.

They only care if you are cute. How charisma harms biodiversity.

The faboulous taxonomic adventure of the genus Geoplana.

Darwin’s Planaria elegans: hidden, extinct or misidentified?

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References:

Graff, L. v. (1896) Über das System und die geographische Verbreitung der Landplanarien. Verhandlungen der Deutschen Zoologischen Gesellschaft6: 61–75.

Graff, L. v. (1899) Monographie der Turbellarien. II. Tricladida Terricola (Landplanarien). Engelmann, Leipzig.

Kawakatsu, M.; Ogren, R. E.; Froehlich, E. M. (1998) The taxonomic revision of several homonyms in the genus Bipalium, family Bipaliidae (Turbellaria, Seriata, Tricladida, Terricola). The Bulletin of Fuji Women’s College Series 236: 83–93.

Kawakatsu, M.; Ogren, R. E.; Froehlich, E. M., Sasaki, G.-Y. (2002) Additions and corrections of the previous land planarians indices of the world (Turbellaria, Seriata, Tricladida, Terricola). The bulletin of Fuji Women’s University. Ser. II40: 162–177.

Mazza, G.; Menchetti, M.; Sluys, R.; Solà, E.; Riutort, M.; Tricarico, E.; Justine, J.-L.; Cavigioli, L.; Mori, E. (2016) First report of the land planarian Diversibipalium multilineatum (Makino & Shirasawa, 1983) (Platyhelminthes, Tricladida, Continenticola) in Europe. Zootaxa4067(5): 577–580.

Ogren, R. E.; Sluys, R. (2001) The genus Humbertium gen. nov., a new taxon of the land planarian family Bipaliidae (Tricladida, Terricola). Belgian Journal of Zoology131: 201–204.

Schmarda, L. K. (1859) Neue Wirbellose Thiere beobachtet und gesammelt auf einer Reise um die Erde 1853 bis 1857 1. Turbellarien, Rotatorien und Anneliden. Erste Hälfte. Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig.

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 Philadelphia9: 19–31.

Wright, E. P. (1860) Notes on Dunlopea. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 3rd ser.6: 54–56.

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Filed under flatworms, Systematics, taxonomy, worms, Zoology