Biodiversity Data Journal : Taxonomic paper
Taxonomic paper

First record of Orobdella kawakatsuorum (Hirudinida: Arhynchobdellida: Erpobdelliformes) from Kunashir Island, Kuril Islands

expand article infoTakafumi Nakano, Konstantin B. Gongalsky
† Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
‡ A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
Open Access


Specimens of the genus Orobdella Oka, 1895 from Kunashir Island, the Kuril Islands, are identified as Orobdella kawakatsuorum Richardson, 1975. Mitochondrial tRNALeu and ND1 data confirm the species identification of the Kunashir specimens. This is the first record of the genus Orobdella from the Kuril Islands.


Hirudinida, Orobdella kawakatsuorum, geographical record, ND1, Kuril Islands


The genus Orobdella Oka, 1895 is a terrestrial macrophagous leech taxon that contains 11 described species from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan (Nakano 2012b, Nakano and Lai 2012, Nakano and Seo 2012). Orobdella whitmani Oka, 1895 was reported from Primorsky Krai in the continental part of the Russian Far East (Gilyarov and Perel 1971, Gilyarov et al. 1969, Gongalsky 2007, Lukin 1976). However, the identification of the Russian specimens is doubtful (Nakano 2012a). The northernmost distributional limits of this genus have been reported as Primorsky Krai of the Russian Far East, and the Shiretoko Peninsula of Hokkaido where two species, O. kawakatsuorum Richardson, 1975 and O. koikei Nakano, 2012, have been recorded (Nakano 2012a).

The Kuril Islands are a long archipelago off the coast of the Russian Far East located between the Kamchatka Peninsula and Hokkaido. Members of Orobdella have never been recorded from the Kuril Islands, although the southern part of the islands lies close to Hokkaido. Recently, several Orobdella specimens were collected on Kunashir Island by the second author during a survey of soil fauna on the island. Based on morphological examination of the specimens, the identification and brief description of the Kunashir Orobdella are herein presented. In addition, mitochondrial tRNALeu and ND1 sequence data of the specimens are presented as confirmation of species identity based on their morphological characteristics.

Materials and methods

Leeches were collected from Kunashir Island in the Kuril Islands (Fig. 1). The specimens were preserved in 95% ethanol in the field. In the laboratory, botryoidal tissue was taken from the posterior part of the body around the caudal sucker of each specimen for DNA extraction, and the rest of the bodies were re-fixed in 10% formalin for dissection and preserved in 70% ethanol. Examination, dissection, and drawings of the specimens were done under a stereoscopic microscope equipped with a drawing tube (Leica M125). Specimens used in this study have been deposited in the Zoological Collection of Kyoto University (KUZ).

Figure 1.

Map showing the Kuril Islands and adjacent areas. Filled circles indicate collection localities of the specimens examined in this study.

The numbering convention is based on the system adopted by Moore (1927): body somites are denoted by Roman numerals, and the annuli in each somite are given an alphanumeric designation.

Sequences of mitochondrial tRNALeu and ND1 (tRNALeu–ND1) were determined for 4 specimens of O. kawakatsuorum and O. koikei, and one specimen of O. whitmani Oka, 1895, in addition to the two specimens from Kunashir Island (Table 1). The extraction of genomic DNA and DNA sequencing methods followed Nakano (2012a). For obtaining sequences of tRNALeu–ND1, the procedure was modified as follows: the primer set was LND300 and HND1932 (Light and Siddall 1999); the PCR reaction mixture was heated to 94 °C for 5 min, followed by 40 cycles at 94 °C (10 s), 55 °C (20 s), and 72 °C (39 s), and a final extension at 72 °C for 6 min; the sequencing reaction mixture was incubated at 96 °C for 2 min, followed by 40 cycles at 96 °C (10 s), 50 °C (5 s), and 60 °C (39 s). Newly obtained sequences have been deposited with the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC; Table 1).

Samples used for the DNA analysis, with the information on vouchers and INSDC accession numbers.



tRNALeu and ND1

Orobdella kawakatsuorum

KUZ Z675

Kunashir Island, the Kuril Islands


KUZ Z676

Kunashir Island, the Kuril Islands


KUZ Z152

Mt. Rausudake, Shiretoko, Hokkaido


KUZ Z167

Sapporo, Hokkaido (app. 5 km far from type locality)


Orobdella koikei

KUZ Z151

Mt. Rausudake, Shiretoko, Hokkaido


KUZ Z156 (holotype)

Sounkyo, Hokkaido


Orobdella whitmani


Mt. Kinkazan, Gifu, Honshu (type locality)


The length of the obtained tRNALeu–ND1 was 629 bp for O. whitmani (KUZ Z45) and 630 bp for the other specimens. These sequences were aligned using MAFFT FFT-NS-2 (Katoh et al. 2005). The length of the aligned sequences was 630 bp. A gap was inserted in the tRNALeu part of the sequence of O. whitmani. Genetic distances of the obtained sequences were calculated by Kimura 2-parameter (K2P) correction (Kimura 1980), and then a neighbor-joining tree was constructed with nonparametric bootstrapping based on 1000 replicates using MEGA 5 (Tamura et al. 2011).

Taxon treatment

Orobdella kawakatsuorum Richardson, 1975

Materials   Download as CSV 
  1. island: Kunashir Island; verbatimLocality: near Ivanovsky cordon of Kurilsky Nature Reserve, 600 m from the Sea of Okhotsk, Kunashir Island; decimalLatitude: 43.839933N; decimalLongitude: 145.412833E; eventDate: 2012-08-23; habitat: Oak (Quercus crispula) forest with bamboo (Sasa sp.) and lianas (Hydrangea paniculata, Vitis coignetiae), forest canopy density 60%, grass cover density 100%, litter depth up to 15 cm; individualCount: 1; sex: hermaphrodite; catalogNumber: KUZ Z675; identifiedBy: Takafumi Nakano; institutionCode: KUZ
  2. island: Kunashir Island; verbatimLocality: near Ozernyi cordon of Kurilsky Nature Reserver, on the eastern slope of Golovnin Volcano caldera, 1 km from the Sea of Okhotsk, Kunashir Island; decimalLatitude: 43.875333N; decimalLongitude: 145.476617E; eventDate: 2012-08-26; habitat: Fir (Abies sachalinensis) forest with birch (Betula platyphylla) and oak (Quercus crispula) and bamboo (Sasa sp.), forest canopy density 70%, grass cover density 80%; individualCount: 1; sex: hermaphrodite; catalogNumber: KUZ Z676; identifiedBy: Takafumi Nakano; institutionCode: KUZ


Body firm, muscular, elongated, with constant width in caudal direction, dorsoventrally compressed, BL 23.8–32.5 mm, BW 3.7–4.9 mm (Fig. 2). Caudal sucker elliptic, minor axis 1.0–1.6 mm, major axis 1.9–2.7 mm (Fig. 2b). Somite I completely merged with prostomium. Somites II, III uniannulate. Somites IV, V biannulate. Somites VI, VII triannulate. Somites VIII–XXV quadrannulate (Fig. 3a). Somite XXVI triannulate. Somite XXVII uniannulate; anus behind it. Eyes in 3 pairs, first pair dorsally on posterior margin of II, second and third pairs dorsolaterally on posterior margin of V (a1 + a2). Nephridiopores in 17 pairs, 1 each situated ventrally at posterior margin of a1 of each somites in VIII–XXIV (Fig. 3a).

Figure 2.

Orobdella kawakatsuorum Richardson, 1975 from Kunashir Island, KUZ Z676.

adorsal view. Scale bar: 5 mm.
bventral view. Scale bar: 5 mm.
Figure 3.

Orobdella kawakatsuorum Richardson, 1975 from Kunashir Island, KUZ Z676. Abbreviations: af, annular furrow; cp, crop; ed, ejaculatory duct; ep, epididymis; fg, female gonopore; gd, gastroporal duct; gp, gastropore; mg, male gonopore; np, nephridiopore; ph, pharynx.

aventral view of somites XI–XIII. Scale bar: 1 mm.
bventral view of the gastroporal duct. Scale bar: 1 mm.
cventral view of the gastropore and female gonopore. Scale bar: 0.25 mm.
ddorsal view of sperm ducts and ventral nervous system. Scale bar: 1 mm.

Pharynx reaching to XIV b5/b6 (Fig. 3b). Crop reaching to XX b5–XX/XXI (Fig. 3b). Gastropore in furrow of XIII a1/a2 (Fig. 3a, c). Gastroporal duct tubular, joining with crop in XIV b5/b6 (Fig. 3b). Intestine reaching to XXV a1/a2–b5/b6. Rectum descending to anus.

Male gonopore at anterior margin of XI b6 (Fig. 3a). Female gonopore in furrow of XIII a1/a2 (Fig. 3c). Gonopores separated by 6 annuli (Fig. 3a). Testisacs undeveloped, undetectable. Paired epididymides in XVI b5/b6–XVII a1/a2, occupying 2 annuli (Fig. 3d). Ejaculatory ducts in XI b5 to XVI b5/b6, nearly straight. Atrial cornua undeveloped. Atrium globular, in XI b6. Paired ovisacs globular, 1 each in XIII a2 and b5. Oviducts short, both oviducts converging into common oviduct in XIII a2. Common oviduct directly descending to female gonopore.


Orobdella kawakatsuorum is distributed in Hokkaido, Japan, and its peripheral islands and inhabited in mountainous regions of these islands (Nakano 2012a). The present specimens have extended the known distributional range of the species north to include the southern tip of the Kuril Islands.

Genetic data

The obtained neighbor-joining tree (Fig. 4) showed that two Orobdella specimens from Kunashir Island (KUZ Z675, Z676) formed a monophyletic lineage with the individual of O. kawakatsuorum from Shiretoko, Hokkaido (KUZ Z152). No difference between the tRNALeu–ND1 sequences from the Kunashir specimens. The K2P distance was detected between these two specimens (KUZ Z675, Z676) and that from Shiretoko (KUZ Z152) was 0.5%.

Figure 4.

The neighbor-joining tree of 630 bp of tRNALeu and ND1. The numbers at the nodes represent the bootstrap values.

Taxon discussion

Two specimens of Orobdella from Kunashir Island clearly belong to O. kawakatsuorum based on the following characteristics: male gonopore in the anterior margin of XI b6, female gonopore in the furrow of XIII a1/a2, 6 annuli between gonopores, and epididymides occupying 2 annuli. According to Nakano (2012a), O. kawakatsuorum grows to ca. 10 cm length. However, the body length of the Kunashir specimens is only ca. 3 cm. Since they have undeveloped male atria and undetectable testisacs, they were considered immature individuals. As noted in the Introduction, two quadrannulate species of Orobdella, O. kawakatsuorum and O. koikei, are distributed in Hokkaido. Orobdella koikei is the closest congener of O. kawakatsuorum according to the recent molecular phylogenetic study and the smallest species among the known species of Orobdella (Nakano 2012a). The body length of the known mature leeches of O. koikei is less than 4 cm. Therefore, based only on their body length, a possibility exists that the Kunashir specimens might be misidentified as O. koikei. However, O. kawakatsuorum, as well as the present specimens, are clearly distinguished from O. koikei in the characteristics mentioned above: the latter possesses 1/2 + 4 + 1/2 annuli between gonopores (male gonopore in the middle of XI b6, female gonopore in the middle of XIII a1), and the epididymides occupy 9–12 annuli. Our tRNALeu–ND1 data provided additional confirmation that the Orobdella leeches from Kunashir Island were identified correctly as O. kawakatsuorum.

Orobdella kawakatsuorum was collected from Rishirito Island (Nakano 2012a), which is located ca. 20 km away from Hokkaido (Fig. 1). Additionally, Kunashir Island lies offshore of Hokkaido. Thus, anticipating that Orobdella leeches might occur on the island was not difficult. Our findings suggest that Orobdella species may also be present in the southern part of the Kuril Islands, e.g., Iturup Island and Shikotan Island. Further faunal surveys should be conducted not only in the South Kurils, but also in the northern part of the Kuril Islands, as well as the Kamchatka Peninsula, to fully reveal the northern distributional limit of the genus Orobdella.


We thank Dr Taku Okamoto (Kyoto University) for allowing us to prepare our map figure based on his vector graphics, and Dr Maxim Antipin (Deputy Head, Kurisky Nature Reserve) for his help in field work organization. We also thank 3 anonymous reviewers, Dr Serge Y. Utevsky (V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University), and Dr Fredric R. Govedich (Southern Utah University) for their constructive comments to this manuscript. Financial support for this study was provided by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research to KG, Grants for Biodiversity and Evolutionary Research of Global COE (A06) and for Excellent Graduate Schools, both from MEXT, Japan, to Kyoto University, and a JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists to TN.