Parasitology, Harold W. Manter Laboratory of


Date of this Version



Journal of Natural History 9:6 (1975), pp. 633–667.

doi: 10.1080/00222937500770531


Copyright © 1975 Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Unlike the Eurasian marine leeches (Johansson, 1896; Selensky, 1915; Herter, 1935; Vasileyev, 1939; Knight-Jones, 1961; Sawyer, 1970; Soós, 1965), those from North America comprise an unusually neglected group, due primarily to the bewildering taxonomy of the members. Most early descriptions were brief, ambiguous, and concerned only with superficial characters. Some of the nominal species reported from the eastern United States and Canada are unrecognizable today, thus perpetuating nomenclatural confusion.

We attempt to analyze critically the marine leeches from Newfoundland to Texas, with emphasis on those of the southern states from Virginia to Mississippi. An illustrated dichotomous key and a diagnosis for each species is presented. A synonymy, a list of hosts, the geographical distribution, and biological observations accompany the diagnoses. The poorly known Pacific marine leeches (Moore & Meyer, 1951; Moore, 1952a) will be deferred to another study.

We found 14 valid species in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Mexico from Newfoundland to Texas. Fortunately, the internal anatomy of most is now well known: Ozobranchus branchiatus (Menzies, 1791); O. margoi (Apathy, 1890); Stibarobdella macrothela (Schmarda, 1861); Branchellion torpedinis Savigny, 1822; Trachelobdella lubrica (Grube, 1840); Oxytonostoma typica Malm, 1863; Branchellion ravenelii (Girard, 1850); Trachelobdella rugosa Moore, 1898; Calliobdella vivida (Verrill, 1872); Platybdella buccalis Nigrelli, 1946; Malmiana nuda Richardson, 1970; Myzobdella lugubris Leidy, 1851; Austrobdella rapax (Verrill, 1873); and a new species provisionally assigned to Malmiana Strand, 1942. The first six are also European or cosmopolitan species.

Trachelobdella lubrica, Oxytonostoma typical, and the undescribed species of Malmiana are new to the region under study. Trachelobdella rugosa, Austrobdella rapax, and Platybdella buccalis are reported for the first time since their original descriptions. In addition the following important synonyms are presented for the first time: Calliobdella vivida synonymous with C. carolinensis of Sawyer & Chamberlain (1972) and C. nodulifera of Threlfall (1969); Myzobdella lugubris synonymous with Illinobdella alba, I. elongata, I. richardsoni, and I. moorei of Meyer (1940), Ichthyobdella rapax of Wass (1972) and Cystobranchus virginicus of Paperna and Zwerner (1974); and the undescribed Malmiana species synonymous with Piscicola funduli of Causey (1953). Piscicola zebra Moore, 1898, is species inquirendae.