Tracking endangered mammals with the leeches that feed on them

A broad survey conducted across southern Asia reinforces the idea that the mammal biodiversity of an area can be determined by looking at the DNA found in leeches' blood meals. The new study, led by researchers at the American ...

Tiny Australian leech named for best-selling author Amy Tan

Researchers have named a new leech after best-selling author Amy Tan based on an innovative method for peering inside soft-bodied animals. Chtonobdella tanae, a terrestrial leech from Australia, is the first new species of ...

Using leeches to measure mammal biodiversity

In order to get a better grasp on the biodiversity of mammals in Sumatra, University of Delaware graduate student Sarah Weiskopf spent two weeks collecting leeches in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and conducting genetic ...

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Leech

Leeches are segmented worms that belong to the phylum Annelida and comprise the subclass Hirudinea. Like other oligochaetes such as earthworms, leeches share a clitellum and are hermaphrodites. Nevertheless, they differ from other oligochaetes in significant ways. For example, leeches do not have bristles and the external segmentation of their bodies does not correspond with the internal segmentation of their organs. Their bodies are much more solid as the spaces in their coelom are dense with connective tissues. They also have two suckers, one at each end.

The majority of leeches live in freshwater environments, while some species can be found in terrestrial and marine environments, as well. Most leeches are hematophagous, as they are predominantly blood suckers that feed on blood from vertebrate and invertebrate animals.

Leeches, such as the Hirudo medicinalis, have been historically used in medicine to remove blood from patients. The practice of leeching can be traced to ancient India and Greece, and has continued well into the 18th and 19th centuries in both Europe and North America. In modern times, the practice of leeching is much rarer and has been replaced by other contemporary uses of leeches, such as the reattachment of body parts and reconstructive and plastic surgeries.

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