Charles Darwin's Observations on the Behaviour of Earthworms and the Evolutionary History of a Giant Endemic Species from Germany, Lumbricus badensis (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae)

  • Kutschera U
  • Elliott J
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Abstract

The British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) began and ended his almost 45-year-long career with observations, experiments, and theories related to earthworms. About six months before his death, Darwin published his book on The Formation of Vegetable Mould , through the Actions of Worms , With Observations on their Habits (1881). Here we describe the origin, content, and impact of Darwin's last publication on earthworms (subclass Oligochaeta, family Lumbricidae) and the role of these annelids as global “ecosystem reworkers” (concept of bioturbation). In addition, we summarize our current knowledge on the reproductive behaviour of the common European species Lumbricus terrestris . In the second part of our account we describe the biology and evolution of the giant endemic species L. badensis from south western Germany with reference to the principle of niche construction. Biogeographic studies have shown that the last common ancestor of L. badensis , and the much smaller sister-taxon, the Atlantic-Mediterranean L. friendi , lived less than 10 000 years ago. Allopatric speciation occurred via geographically isolated founder populations that were separated by the river Rhine so that today two earthworm species exist in different areas.

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Kutschera, U., & Elliott, J. M. (2010). Charles Darwin’s Observations on the Behaviour of Earthworms and the Evolutionary History of a Giant Endemic Species from Germany, Lumbricus badensis (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae) . Applied and Environmental Soil Science, 2010, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1155/2010/823047

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