Cryptic taxonomic diversity and high-latitude melanism in the glossiphoniid leech assemblage from the Eurasian Arctic

Sci Rep. 2022 Nov 30;12(1):20630. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-24989-7.


The family Glossiphoniidae is a diverse and widespread clade of freshwater leeches, playing a significant role in functioning of aquatic ecosystems. The taxonomy and biogeography of leeches from temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions attracted much attention of zoologists, while their taxonomic richness and distribution in the Arctic are poorly understood. Here, we present an overview of the Eurasian Arctic Glossiphoniidae based on the most comprehensive occurrence and DNA sequence datasets sampled to date. This fauna contains 14 species, belonging to five genera and three subfamilies. One genus and five species are new to science and described here. The world's northernmost occurrences of glossiphoniids are situated on the Taymyr Peninsula at 72° N, although further records at higher latitudes are expected. Most Arctic leeches are characterized by broad ranges crossing several climatic zones (e.g., Glossiphonia balcanica and G. nebulosa), although the distribution of two new species may be confined to the high-latitude areas. The Taymyr Peninsula with the nearby Putorana Plateau represents the most species-rich area (totally 9 species), while the European Arctic, Iceland, Kolyma Highland, and Chukotka Peninsula house depleted faunas (2-4 species per subregion). Finally, we show that the high-latitude melanism is a common phenomenon in glossiphoniid leeches.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Iceland
  • Leeches* / genetics
  • Lepidoptera*
  • Melanosis*