Parasitology, Harold W. Manter Laboratory of


Date of this Version


Document Type



ZooKeys 892: 59–75


Copyright 2019, the authors. Open access material

License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)


Freshwater hairworms (class Gordiida) are members of the phylum Nematomorpha that use terrestrial arthropods as definitive hosts but reside as free-living adult worms in rivers, lakes, or streams. The genus Gordius consists of 90 described species, of which three species were described from freshwater habitats in North America. In this paper we describe a new species of Gordius from terrestrial habitats in Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana, United States. Oddly, each year hundreds of adult free-living worms appear after bouts of heavy rain on streets, sidewalks, and lawns during the winter season, when terrestrial arthropod hosts are not active. The new species is described based on morphological characters of adults and nonadult stages including the egg strings, eggs, larvae, and cysts. Adult males have a unique row of bristles on the ventral inner side of each tail lobe and a circular pattern of bristles on the terminal end of each lobe, which distinguishes them from all other described North American species of Gordius. The egg string, larval, and cyst morphology of this new species conform to previous descriptions of non-adult hairworm stages for the genus Gordius. However, the eggs of this new species of hairworm are unique, as they contain an outer shell separated by distinct space from a thick inner membrane. The consistent occurrence of this gordiid in terrestrial habitats, along with its distinct egg morphology, suggests that this new species of hairworm has a terrestrial life cycle.

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