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Giant earthworms

Sam James sjames at mum.edu
Tue Apr 15 11:35:32 EST 1997

At 08:26 PM 4/14/97 -0700, you wrote:
>I am a molecular researcher studying the break-up of Gondwana and its
>affect on vertebrates (birds mostly) and now, invertebrates. A group that
>appears particularly interesting is the giant earthworms of the Southern
>continents: S. America, S. Africa, NZ, Aust., Sri Lanka (and possibly
>Madagascar?). Consequently, I'm hoping someone can point me towards any
>recent research on their phylogeny, morphological or molecular. My research
>is based on DNA sequencing material from museum specimens, so I am
>particularly interested in the location of any decent museum collections of
>giant earthworms. If anyone has any useful info, please let me know.

Dear Alan:

The giants of the southern hemisphere are a phylogenetically diverse lot,
belonging to at least three families (more depending on one's criteria for
definition of families in earthworms), each of which contains numerous
non-giant species.  Madagascar also has giant worms of a fourth family, and
there are other giants in other places.  Many genera in South America
contain giant and ordinary-sized worms, so I think your search for giants is
not well advised.  I would be happy to discuss further your goals and the
choice of appropriate earthworm taxa. 

Barrie Jamieson at U. of Queensland and I are trying to get organized for a
molecular phylogeny of earthworm families.  I am an advocate of using
earthworms as biogeographical indicator organisms (for areas of unknown or
questionable land area relationships), because they are such terrible
dispersers when salt water barriers are present.  Presently I am working
with Caribbean, Central American and Fijian (!!!) species of a "genus" that
also has members in sub-saharan Africa.  In the happy future I envision, I
will have money to work with the DNA of these worms, since I have
collections preserved for that purpose.  I have some preliminary data on
mt12S, COI, Cyt B, a globin gene, and from a domain III of a smaller nuclear
ribosomal subunit.  

I realize I have not fulfilled your desires, but I hope this helps and I am
ready to discuss this more if you wish.
~  Sam James                ~
~  Dept. of Biology         ~
~  Maharishi Univ. of Mgmt. ~
~  Fairfield, IA 52557      ~
~  sjames at mum.edu           ~
~  515-472-1146             ~
~ Systematics and Ecology   ~
~ of Earthworms             ~

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