Pictured above: the American terrestrial leech, Haemopis terrestris (Forbes, 1890), described as
     new to science by Stephen Alfred Forbes, the first Chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey.
Click here to view a video of this species, created by INHS Education/Outreach Coordinator J. Mui.   

[ page update: 2019-VII-01 ]

Introduction.  The INHS Annelida Collection is perhaps the largest state collection of freshwater oligochaetes in the country, holding 350,000 specimens (over 7,000 lots, or collections). Approximately 225,000 specimens are permanently mounted on microscope slides; the remaining specimens are stored in alcohol in vials and jars. With the exception of one monospecific order - Acanthobdellida (the bristle worms, restricted in distribution to the boreal regions in the Arctic) - the collection includes representatives of the other groups of worms in the phylum Annelida: Branchiobdellida (one family, Branchiobdellidae - the crayfish worms, including representatives of the subfamilies Bdellodrilinae, Cambarincolinae, and Xironodrilinae); Hirudinida (the leeches, including representatives of all five families known to occur in North America – Haemopidae, Hirudinidae, Erpobdellidae, Glossiphoniidae, and Piscicolidae); the Oligochaetous Clitellata {'Oligochaeta'}, with representatives of the aquatic microdrile worms (families Enchytraeidae, Haplotaxidae, Lumbriculidae, Naididae {now including the subfamilies in the former family Tubificidae}, and  Opistocystidae), and the terrestrial megadrile oligochaetes – earthworms (families Acanthodrilidae, Glossoscolecidae, Komarekionidae, Lumbricidae, Megascolecidae, and Sparganophilidae); and Polychaeta (sand worms, tube worms, or clam worms – primarily marine) including a few representatives of the families Capitellidae and Sabellidae, and Aeolosomatida (one family, Aeolosomatidae – the head-crawling, or suction-feeding worms).

The INHS Annelida Collection includes representatives of many worm species that have limited known distributions in North America; however, none of the annelids known or thought likely to occur in Illinois is listed as endangered or threatened by either the federal government or by the State of Illinois, nor are any under consideration for such listing.

Geographic Scope.  The geographic scope of the INHS Annelida Collection is as follows:  76% from Illinois, 23% from elsewhere in North America (collections from the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida (including the Conch Republic), Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John Island), and from the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island), and 1% from other countries, including Australia, the Bahamas, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Greenland, India, Jamaica, Lesser Antilles (Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Granada, Nexis, St. Lucia), Morocco, The Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Sweden, and Venezuela. 

The vast majority of the identified and as yet unidentified specimens deposited in this collection were obtained during specific surveys for aquatic annelids as well as general surveys for all aquatic macroinvertebrates conducted by M.J. Wetzel and numerous other INHS biologists and colleagues elsewhere since 1973.  Many other specimens have been donated by biologists affiliated with other public and private institutions, agencies, consulting firms, and by the public. 

General Diversity of the INHS Annelida Collection.  Illinois species now deposited in the INHS Annelida Collection include 3 aphanoneurans (1 family, 1 genus), 9 branchiobdellidans (3 families, 6 genera), 86 aquatic or semiaquatic oligochaetes (7 families, 45 genera), 34 leeches (4 families, 19 genera), and at least 38 terrestrial oligochaetes (6 families, 18 genera). One aquatic oligochaete, Eclipidrilus asymmetricus (Smith, 1896) (Oligochaeta: Lumbriculidae), is endemic to Illinois; several other oligochaete species, including Limnodrilus tortilipenis Wetzel, 1987 (Naididae, Tubificinae), Rhyacodrilus falciformis Bretscher, 1901, and Rhyacodrilus subterraneus Hrabe, 1963 (Naididae, Rhyacodrilinae), and Allonais inaequalis (Stephenson, 1911) (Naididae, Naidinae) are species considered rare in Illinois, and known from only a few localities in North America. Another species, Varichaetadrilus angustipenis (Brinkhurst & Cook, 1966) (Naididae, Tubificinae) - sporadic in its North American distribution - has been collected from several springs and caves in Illinois, but rarely elsewhere in the state.  In addition, specimens considered to be recent introductions into North America are held in this collection, and are the focus of several manuscripts now in preparation.

Status of specimens deposited in INHS Annelida Collection.  Over 70% of the slide-mounted aquatic oligochaetes have been identified. Many additional collections of aquatic and terrestrial oligochaetes and other annelids – presently held in alcohol jars, vials, and tubes – await final processing, mounting on glass slides, and identification. A computerized database for the collection, established in 1991, is currently being restructured to better organize and present metadata associated with specimens. Concurrently, a collections profiling exercise is in progress to assess the health of this collection (for slide mounted specimens - integrity of specimens and mountants, and locality and identification labels on slides; integrity of slide boxes; and verification of locality information and specimen identifications associated with the database record for slides in each slide box; for unmounted specimens stored in ethanol in vials, jars, and tubes - integrity of specimens, preservative fluid levels, and associated locality and identification labels in containers; integrity of stoppers, caps, and lids of containers; organization of specimen containers {in vial / jar racks, boxes, or unit trays}; and verification of locality information and specimen identifications associated with the database record for specimens in each container).  

Types deposited in the INHS Annelida Collection. 

The INHS Annelida Collection (INHS ANNCOLL) contains primary types of six leech and one aquatic oligochaete species, listed below.

1. Illinobdella alba M.C. Meyer, 1940 [now =Myzobdella lugubris Leidy, 1851] (Hirudinea: Piscicolidae) - INHS ANNCOLL slide no. 13580 (21).

2. Illinobdella elongata M.C. Meyer, 1940 [now =Myzobdella lugubris Leidy, 1851] (Hirudinea: Piscicolidae) - INHS ANNCOLL slide no. 13582 (118).

3. Illinobdella moorei M.C. Meyer, 1940 [now=Myzobdella lugubris Leidy, 1851] (Hirudinea: Piscicolidae) - INHS ANNCOLL slide no. 13579 (133).

4. Illinobdella richardsoni M.C. Meyer, 1940 [now=Myzobdella lugubris Leidy, 1851] (Hirudinea: Piscicolidae) - INHS ANNCOLL slide no. 13581 (85).

5. Cystobranchus verrilli M.C. Meyer, 1940 (Hirudinea: Piscicolidae) - INHS ANNCOLL slide no. 13578 (152).

6. Piscicolaria reducta M.C. Meyer, 1940 [now=Myzobdella reducta (Meyer, 1940] (Hirudinea: Piscicolidae) - INHS ANNCOLL slide no. 13583 (150).

Oligochaetous Clitellata {'Oligochaeta'}
1. Limnodrilus tortilipenis Wetzel, 1987 (Family Naididae, subfamily Tubificinae). Two paratypes of this species are deposited in the INHS Annelida Collection (no accession number); the holotype and one paratype of this species are deposited in the National Museum of Natural History – Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (catalog numbers: holotype - USNM 100439, paratype - USNM 100440).

Type locality information for annelids first described as new to science from Illinois.

Terrestrial megadrile oligochaetes (earthworms):

- Diplocardia communis
Garman, 1888 - "common to the black soils of Illinois prairieland" [no specific locality information was provided with description].

- Diplocardia singularis {as Geodrilus singularis} Ude, 1893 - Danville (Vermilion Co.).

- Diplocardia riparia Smith, 1895 - near Havana (Mason Co.).

- Diplocardia conoyeri Murchie, 1961 - (St. Clair Co.).

- Bimastos zeteki
{as Helodrilus (Bimastus) zeteki Smith &  Gittens, 1915 - woodlands near Urbana (Champaign Co.).

- Bimastos longicinctus {as Helodrilus (Bimastus) longicinctus} Smith &  Gittens, 1915 - lawns and parkings in Urbana (Champaign Co.).

- Bimastos heimburgeri {as Helodrilus (Bimastus) heimburgeri} Smith, 1928 - banks of small stream flowing into Sangamon River near the town of White Heath (Piatt Co.).

Sparganophilus eiseni Smith, 1895] - near Havana (Mason Co.)
     [ =Sparganophilus tamesis Benham, 1892; see Rota et al. 2016]


Terrestrial microdrile oligochaetes - Family Enchytraeidae:

Henlea moderata Welch, 1940 -- from rich soil under decaying leaves in undisturbed forest land near Urbana (Champaign Co.);

Henlea urbanensis Welch, 1940 -- from rich soil in undisturbed forest-land near Urbana (Champaign Co.);

Fridericia oconeensis Welch, 1940 -- under the decaying bark of fallen timber, near Oconee (Shelby Co.);

Fridericia sima Welch, 1940 -- from under decaying leaves and at a slight depth in the rich, moderately moist humus in undisturbed forest-land near Urbana (Champaign Co.);

Lumbricillus rutilus Welch, 1940 -- from the sprinkling filter beds of the Thirty-ninth Street Sewage Testing Station in Chicago (Cook Co.);



Haemopis terrestris (Forbes, 1890) -- the American terrestrial leech (originally described as Semiscolex terrestris), from a house garden in Normal (McLean Co.);

>> Additional species will be posted here soon. 


Aquatic microdrile oligochaetes:
Naididae, Tubificinae.

- Limnodrilus tortilipenis
Wetzel, 1987 - Dutchman Creek, 2.4 km W Vienna (Johnson Co.).

Acquisition Highlights.  An important acquisition for the INHS Annelida Collection in 1986 was the Walter J. Harman collection of terrestrial oligochaetes. The material in this collection, comprised of 1,600 earthworm specimens representing 22 species, 10 genera, and 3 families, was collected by Dr. Harman from 230 sites in central Illinois during his 1956-1958 survey for his doctoral work at the University of Illinois.  The information in Harman's thesis, previously unpublished records in Harman's original field notes, and records of other terrestrial oligochaetes collected over the years in Illinois and deposited in the INHS Annelida Collection were recently presented in a publication by Reynolds and Wetzel (2011): Megadrilogica 18 (4): 35-67.  Michael McMahan kindly donated specimens, books, and reprints from his collection when he retired, and Dr. Kathryn A. Coates graciously donated books and theses when she retired and moved from Bermuda.

In 2015, two new state records for earthworms were recorded - Bimastos welchi Smith, 1917 (Family Lumbricidae, a native to North America) from Lee Co., and Microscolex dubius (Fletscher, 1887) (Family Acanthodrilidae, a European introduction) from Pulaski Co.


Financial support for the maintenance of INHS Annelida Collection, and for the collection and identification of specimens housed here, has been provided over the last 36 years by the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), Illinois State Water Survey (ISGS), Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Society for Freshwater Science (formerly, Midwest Benthological Society, 1953-1975, then North American Benthological Society, 1975-2011), Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA), Society for the Preservation of Natural History CollectionsNational Museum of Natural History (NMNH) – Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture (Soil Conservation Service), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Commonwealth Edison Company, Central Illinois Public Service Company, Marathon Oil Company, The Herbert H. Ross Memorial Fund, American Fisheries Society, Northern Illinois Planning Commission, Illinois Coastal Zone Management Program, City Water, Light, and Power Company (Springfield, Illinois), Institute of Environmental Quality, and the Illinois Institute of Environmental Studies (Water Resources Center), U.S. National Park Service, Glen Canyon Environmental Studies, Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, Illinois Groundwater Consortium, Illinois Environmental Protection Trust Fund Commission, World Wildlife Fund, Aquatic Resources Center (College Grove, TN), Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), Discover Life In America, Inc., Huron Mountain Wildlife Foundation, and the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)

Of course, the collection would not exist without the field collections and laboratory sample processing efforts of numerous scientists, technicians, extension personnel, and the lay public - over two hundred people have contributed specimens to this collection, which grows by over three thousand specimens each year. In particular, I thank Will K. Reeves for collecting specimens for our collection during his travels to remote areas of the globe, and several colleague in the southeastern U.S., most of whom are perennial members of the Florida Association of Aquatic Biologists (formerly the Florida Association of Benthologists) or sharing new discoveries with me. The scientific and administrative support staffs of the INHS also are instrumental in the continuing support and maintenance of this collection. In particular, I acknowledge the librarians of the INHS Library and the University and departmental libraries of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library System - their management of superlative research libraries as well as their ability to obtain even the most obscure distributional, ecological, taxonomic, and systematic papers has been instrumental in maintaining this as well as the other research collections housed at the Illinois Natural History Survey. An important part of the INHS Annelida Collection is the extensive library of published papers and reprints focusing on Annelida. This library of annelid literature is supported in part by my membership (since 1979) on the Literature Review Committee of the Society for Freshwater Science (for which I contribute an annual compilation of published literature focusing on the Annelida, and since May 2010, serve as committee chair). Current and past annual compilations (1992-2011) are available electronically HERE. I also acknowledge our colleagues around the world for regularly sending me reprints of their papers focusing on the Annelida. Of particular note is the October 1999 gift of reprints from Dr. Ralph O. Brinkhurst (Lebanon, TN) - papers he authored or co-authored during his exemplary career (30+ years) as a global annelid systematist and untiring mentor to countless understudies of oligochaete taxonomy, systematics, distribution, and ecology.  You can gain some insight into Ralph's career in his book (2004), entitled "Still Searching: The Autobiography of a Biologist" (Trafford Publishing; ISBN 1-4120-4303-4).