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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications / The Parvidrilidae – a diversified groundwater family: description of six new species from southern Europe, and clues for its phylogenetic position within Clitellata (Annelida)

Enrique Martínez-Ansemil, Michel Creuzé des Châtelliers, Patrick Martin and Beatrice Sambugar (2012)

The Parvidrilidae – a diversified groundwater family: description of six new species from southern Europe, and clues for its phylogenetic position within Clitellata (Annelida)

Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 166:530-558.

The Parvidrilidae Erséus, 1999 constitute the most recently described family of oligochaete microdriles. Prior to this study, Parvidrilus strayeri Erséus, 1999, and Parvidrilus spelaeus Martínez-Ansemil, Sambugar & Giani, 2002, found in groundwaters of the USA (Alabama) and Europe (Slovenia and Italy), respectively, were the only two species in this family. In this paper, six new species – Parvidrilus camachoi, Parvidrilus gianii, Parvidrilus jugeti, Parvidrilus meyssonnieri, Parvidrilus stochi, and Parvidrilus tomasini – and Parvidrilus gineti (Juget, 1959) comb. nov. are added to the family. With all species being stygobiont, the Parvidrilidae is unique in being the only family of oligochaetes worldwide comprising taxa that are restricted to groundwater habitats. Parvidrilids are exceedingly small worms whose principal morphological characteristics are the presence of hair setae in ventral bundles, the markedly posterior position of setae within the segments, the presence of mid-dorsal glandular pouches in mesosomial segments, the lateral development of the clitellum, the presence of a single male pore in segment XII, and the presence (or absence) of a single spermatheca. The phylogenetic relationships of the Parvidrilidae within the Clitellata were investigated using the nuclear 18S rRNA gene, and the most representative and taxonomically balanced data set of clitellate families available to date. The data were analysed by parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian inference. Irrespective of the method used, Parvidrilidae were placed far from Capilloventridae, one family once suggested to be closely related to parvidrilids. Although closer to Enchytraeidae than Phreodrilidae, two other suggested putative sister families, the exact position of Parvidrilidae within Clitellata still remained uncertain in the absence of branch support. The examination of reproductive structures, together with the similarity of other important anatomical traits of the new species herein described, reinforced the idea that phreodrilids were the best candidate to be the sister group to parvidrilids on morphological grounds. A fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene, used as a barcode, also genetically characterized a few Parvidrilus species. The observation that two species diverge from each other by high genetic distances, even though their type localities are more or less only 100 km apart, is interpreted in the context of low dispersal abilities of inhabitants of the subterranean aquatic ecosystem, and habitat heterogeneity. The Parvidrilidae appear to be a diversified, Holarctic, and probably widely distributed family in groundwater, but very often overlooked because of the small size and external similarity with the polychaete family Aeolosomatidae of its members.

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