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Concept: Annelids


When searching for food, foraging fishes expose themselves to hidden predators. The strategies that maximize the survival of foraging fishes are not well understood. Here, we describe a novel type of mobbing behaviour displayed by foraging Scolopsis affinis. The fish direct sharp water jets towards the hidden sessile annelid predator Eunice aphroditois (Bobbit worm). We recognized two different behavioural roles for mobbers (i.e., initiator and subsequent participants). The first individual to exhibit behaviour indicating the discovery of the Bobbit directed, absolutely and per time unit, more water jets than the subsequent individuals that joined the mobbing. We found evidence that the mobbing impacted the behaviour of the Bobbit, e.g., by inducing retraction. S. affinis individuals either mob alone or form mobbing groups. We speculate that this behaviour may provide social benefits for its conspecifics by securing foraging territories for S. affinis. Our results reveal a sophisticated and complex behavioural strategy to protect against a hidden predator.

Concepts: Predation, Annelids, Zooplankton, Population dynamics of fisheries, Mobbing behavior, Starfish, Danny Trejo, Eunicidae


The synthesis of designer solid-state materials by living organisms is an emerging field in bio-nanotechnology. Key examples include the use of engineered viruses as templates for cobalt oxide (Co(3)O(4)) particles, superparamagnetic cobalt-platinum alloy nanowires and gold-cobalt oxide nanowires for photovoltaic and battery-related applications. Here, we show that the earthworm’s metal detoxification pathway can be exploited to produce luminescent, water-soluble semiconductor cadmium telluride (CdTe) quantum dots that emit in the green region of the visible spectrum when excited in the ultraviolet region. Standard wild-type Lumbricus rubellus earthworms were exposed to soil spiked with CdCl(2) and Na(2)TeO(3) salts for 11 days. Luminescent quantum dots were isolated from chloragogenous tissues surrounding the gut of the worm, and were successfully used in live-cell imaging. The addition of polyethylene glycol on the surface of the quantum dots allowed for non-targeted, fluid-phase uptake by macrophage cells.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cadmium, Solar cell, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Annelids, Lumbricus terrestris


Remediation soil is exposed to various environmental factors over time that can affect the final success of the operation. In the present study, we assessed Pb bioaccessibility and microbial activity in industrially polluted soil (Arnoldstein, Austria) stabilized with 5% (w/w) of Slovakite and 5% (w/w) of apatite soil after exposure to two earthworm species, Lumbricus terrestris and Dendrobaena veneta, used as model environmental biotic soil factors. Stabilization resulted in reduced Pb bioaccessibility, as assessed with one-step extraction tests and six-step sequential extraction, and improved soil functioning, mirrored in reduced β-glucosidase activity in soil. Both earthworm species increased Pb bioaccessibility, thus decreasing the initial stabilization efficacy and indicating the importance of considering the long-term fate of remediated soil. The earthworm species had different effects on soil enzyme activity, which can be attributed to species-specific microbial populations in earthworm gut acting on the ingested soil.

Concepts: Time, Enzyme, Soil contamination, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Annelids, Lumbricus terrestris, Oligochaeta


We present the first molecular characterization of glycerotoxin (GLTx), a potent neurotoxin found in the venom of the bloodworm Glycera tridactyla (Glyceridae, Annelida). Within the animal kingdom, GLTx shows a unique mode of action as it can specifically up-regulate the activity of Cav2.2 channels (N-type) in a reversible manner. The lack of sequence information has so far hampered a detailed understanding of its mode of action.

Concepts: Fiction, Annelids


The ocean has been assumed as the main sink of microplastics (MPs), however, soils may also receive MPs from different sources and through different pathways, which may affect the biota and their role in soil functions. To the best of our knowledge, only one study, until now, reported the effects of MPs on the survival and fitness of soil organisms (Lumbricus terrestris). In our study, epigeic earthworms, of the species E. andrei, were exposed to different concentrations of MPs (0, 62.5, 125, 250, 500 and 1000 mg/kg soildw) in an OECD artificial soil and tested for reproduction, survival and growth of adults, following a standard protocol. The size of the polyethylene MPs to which earthworms were exposed ranged between 250 and 1000 μm. No significant effects were recorded on survival, number of juveniles and, in the final weight of adult earthworms after 28d of exposure, to the different concentrations of MPs. Nevertheless, FTIR-ATR of earthworms and histopathological analysis of the gut provided evidences of damages and immune system responses to MPs.

Concepts: Immune system, Organism, Life, Soil, Lumbricidae, Annelids, Lumbricus terrestris, Soil functions


Earthworms are common organisms in the soil toxicity-testing framework, and the epigeic Eisenia andrei and E. fetida are the recommended species. However, Eisenia species are rarely found in agricultural soils and recent studies have pointed out endogeic species are more sensitive to pesticides than Eisenia. Allolobophora chlorotica and Aporrectodea caliginosa are two endogeic soil-dwelling species that are abundant in the agroecosystem. However, knowledge on pesticide impact on this ecological group of earthworms is still incipient. Herein, we compared the biochemical (acetylcholinesterase [AChE] and carboxylesterase [CbE] activities) and behavioral (burrowing, casting and feeding) biomarker responses of these two endogeic earthworm species exposed for 7 days to soils contaminated with 0.1, 1 and 10 mg kg-1ethyl-parathion. The results showed marked species-specific differences in both groups of biomarkers, suggesting A. caliginosa the most sensitive species to this organophosphorus pesticide under the exposure conditions in this study. Moreover, an in vitro inhibition trial with ethyl-paraoxon evidenced a higher sensitivity of A. caliginosa AChE activity compared with that of A. chlorotica. This finding suggested that this molecular target endpoint could contribute to the interspecific differences of behavioral responses rather than CbE activity; this latter considered a potent mechanism of OP removal. Our results suggest the inclusion of more than one endogeic earthworm species to assess toxicity from organophosphorus insecticides. However, the use of A. caliginosa in the environmental risk assessment framework of organophosphorus contamination is highly recommended because of its higher sensibility to this class of pesticides, in addition to its abundance in the agroecosystem.

Concepts: Soil, Acetylcholine, Insecticide, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Annelids, DDT, Charles Darwin


Earthworms are bioindicators of soil pollution. The ecotoxicity of tailings from selected gold mines in South Africa was investigated utilizing Eisenia andrei bioassays and biomarkers. Samples were obtained from unrehabilitated, rehabilitated and naturally vegetated sites. Biomass, neutral red retention time (NRRT), survival and reproduction were assessed using standardized protocols. Earthworm biomass, NRRT and reproductive success in rehabilitated tailings (comparable to naturally vegetated site) were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than in unrehabilitated tailings. In addition, significantly lower (p < 0.05) body tissue concentrations of As, Cd, Co, Cu and Ni contents were found in the rehabilitated tailings compared to the unrehabilitated. Further, significantly lower (p < 0.05) soil Mn and Zn concentrations were obtained in unrehabilitated tailings than the rehabilitated and naturally vegetated sites. Overall, reduced ecotoxicity effects were confirmed in rehabilitated compared to unrehabilitated tailings. This suggests that rehabilitation as a post-mining restorative strategy has strong positive influence on mine tailings.

Concepts: Water pollution, Zinc, Gold, Mining, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Annelids, Tailings


Verminephrobacter, the most common specific symbionts in the nephridia (excretory organs) of lumbricid earthworms, have been shown to improve reproduction of the garden earthworm Aporrectodea tuberculata under nutrient limitation. It is unknown, how general this beneficial trait is in the Verminephrobacter-earthworm symbiosis, whether other nephridial symbionts also affect host fitness, and what the mechanism of the fitness increase is. Here we report beneficial effects of Verminephrobacter and Candidatus Nephrothrix on life history traits of the compost worm Eisenia andrei, which in addition to these two symbionts also hosts Agromyces-like bacteria in its mixed nephridial community: while growth was identical between control, Verminephrobacter-free, and aposymbiotic worms, control worms produced significantly more cocoons and offspring than both Verminephrobacter-free and aposymbiotic worms, confirming the reproductive benefit of Verminephrobacter in a second host with different ecology and feeding behavior. Furthermore, worms with Verminephrobacter and Ca. Nephrothrix, or with only Ca. Nephrothrix present, reached sexual maturity significantly earlier than aposymbiotic worms; this is the first evidence for a beneficial role of Ca. Nephrothrix in earthworms. Riboflavin content in cocoons and whole earthworms was unaffected by the presence or absence of nephridial symbionts, suggesting that nutritional supplementation with this vitamin does not play a major role in this symbiosis.

Concepts: Reproduction, Life, Symbiosis, Annelid, Earthworm, Lumbricidae, Annelids, Aposymbiotic


Species of medicinal leeches (Hirudo medicinalis, H. verbana, and H. sulukii) secrete hard-shelled cocoons. When initially deposited, a cocoon is surrounded by a foam. Over a short time, the foam is transformed into a three-dimensional structure. We show here that this peripheral structure likely forms by the solidification and dehydration of a moderately viscous, proteinaceous substance that surrounds bubbles of various sizes. The resulting matrix-like structure comprises a network of curved branches juxtaposed at ∼120° and taper in width as a function of distance from the outer cocoon wall. The material is proteinaceous, and traps environmental material in its composition, especially silicon. The geometry of compartments and abundance of silicon on branch surfaces suggest a mechanism for trapping water to prevent desiccation in a terrestrial environment.

Concepts: Oxygen, Surface, Differential geometry, Analytic geometry, Annelids, Leech, European Medical Leech, Cocoon


Nuclear molecular evidence, for example, the rapidly evolving Internal Transcribed Spacer region (ITS), integrated with maternally inherited (mitochondrial) COI barcodes, has provided new insights into the diversity of clitellate annelids. PCR amplification and sequencing of ITS, however, are often hampered by poor specificity of primers used. Therefore, new clitellate-specific primers for amplifying the whole ITS region (ITS: 29F/1084R) and a part of it (ITS2: 606F/1082R) were developed on the basis of a collection of previously published ITS sequences with flanking rDNA coding regions. The specificity of these and other ITS primers used for clitellates were then tested in silico by evaluating their mismatches with all assembled and annotated sequences (STD, version r127) from EMBL, and the new primers were also tested in vitro for a taxonomically broad sample of clitellate species (71 specimens representing 11 families). The in silico analyses showed that the newly designed primers have a better performance than the universal ones when amplifying clitellate ITS sequences. In vitro PCR and sequencing using the new primers were successful, in particular, for the 606F/1082R pair, which worked well for 65 of the 71 specimens. Thus, using this pair for amplifying the ITS2 will facilitate further molecular systematic investigation of various clitellates. The other pair (29F/1084R), will be a useful complement to existing ITS primers, when amplifying ITS as a whole.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Biotechnology, Reverse transcriptase, In vitro, Annelid, Annelids, Clitellata