, Volume 305, Issue 1–3, pp 105–111 | Cite as

Predation behaviour of land planarians

  • Robert E. Ogren
Ecology and behaviour


Predatory behaviour of land planarians is seldom observed or reported. Aspects reported are (1) finding prey; (2) attack behaviour; (3) capture using adhesive mucus, pharyngeal action, poisonous secretions, physical embrace; (4) feeding by extension of pharynx, releasing copious digestive fluid. The species Bipalium kewense, B. adventitium and B. pennsylvanicum attack earthworms, immobilizing them by physical holding, digesting by pharyngeal secretions and then ingesting the treated tissue. Group attacks on giant African land snails involving chemotactic tracking, occur in Platydemus manokwari and Endeavouria septemlineata. Specialized capture methods are used by some species; Rhynchodemus sylvaticus uses an expanded cephalic hood to capture small insects and in Africa, termites are captured by the elongated anterior of Microplana termitophaga as planarians wait within the colony air shaft openings to ensnare the workers in sticky mucus. The result of extensive predation by land planarians may seriously reduce the prey, e.g., providing effective population control of giant land snails by introduced Platydemus manokwari, or causing serious depletion of desirable earthworm populations by the exotic Artioposthia triangulata in North Ireland.

Key words

land planarians predation capture methods adhesive mucus population control and depletion 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arndt, W., 1925. Über die Gifte der Plattwürmer. Verh. dt. zool. Ges. 30: 135–145.Google Scholar
  2. Arndt, W., 1938. Über den Beutefang von Rhynchodemus. Blätt. Aquarien u. Terrarienkunde 49: 12–13.Google Scholar
  3. Arndt, W. & P. Mantenfel, 1925. Die Turbellarian als Träger von Giften. Z. Morph. Okol. Tiere 3: 344–357.Google Scholar
  4. Ball, I. R. & R. Sluys, 1990. Turbellaria: Tricladida: Terricola. In D. L. Dindal (ed.), Soil Biology Guide: 137–153. John Wiley & Sons, N.Y.Google Scholar
  5. Barker, G. M., 1989. Flatworm predation of terrestrial molluscs in New Zealand and a brief review of previous records. N. Z. Entomol 12: 75–79.Google Scholar
  6. Barnwell, G. M., 1966. The role of encephalization in the feeding behavior of a land planarian, Biplium kewense. J. Biol. Psych. 8: 41–47.Google Scholar
  7. Barnwell, G. M., L. J. Peacock & R. E. taylor, 1965. Feeding behavior of a land planarian, Bipalium kewense. Unpublished manuscript presented to the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Atlanta, Ga, April, 15–17, 1965 (8 pages photocopy available).Google Scholar
  8. Blackshaw, G. P., 1990. Studies on Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy) (Trialadida: Terricola), a predator of earthworms. Ann. appl. Biol. 116: 169–176.Google Scholar
  9. Blackshaw, R. P., 1991. Mortality of the earthworm Eisenia fetida (Savigny) presented to the terrestrial planarian Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy) (Tricladida: Terricola). Ann. appl. Biol. 118: 689–694.Google Scholar
  10. Blackshaw, R. P., 1992. The effect of starvation on size and survival of the terrestrial planarian Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy) (Tricladida: Terricola). Ann. appl. Biol. 120: 573–578.Google Scholar
  11. Blackshaw, R. P. & V. I. Stewart, 1992. Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy, 1894), a predatory terrestrial planarian and its potential impact on lumbricid earthworms. Agr. Zool. Rev. 5: 201–219.Google Scholar
  12. Brittlebank, C. C., 1988. Food of planarians. Vitorian Nat. 5: 48.Google Scholar
  13. Chandler, C. M., 1976. Field observations on a population of the land planarian, Bipalium kewense (Turbellaria, Tricladida) in middle Tennessee. J. Tenn. Acad. Sci. 51: 73–75.Google Scholar
  14. Dendy, A., 1890a. The anatomy of an Australian land planarian. Trans. R. Soc. Vict. 1 (for 1889): 50–95 +pls. 7–10.Google Scholar
  15. Dendy, A., 1890b. Zoological notes on a trip to Walhalla. Victorian Nat. 6: 128–136.Google Scholar
  16. Dindal, D. L., 1970. Feeding behavior of a terrestrial turbellarian Bipalium adventitium. Am. Midl. Nat. 83: 635–637.Google Scholar
  17. Dindal, D. L., 1990. Soil Biology Guide, John Wiley & Sons, N.Y., i-xviii + 1349 pp.Google Scholar
  18. Froehlich, C. G., 1955a. Sôbre morfologia e taxonomia das Geoplanidae. Bol. Fac. Fil. Ciênc. Letr. Univ. São Paulo, Zoologia (19): 195–251 + plls. 1–14.Google Scholar
  19. Froehlich, C. G., 1955b. On the Biology of land planarians. Bol. Fac. Fil. Ciênc. Letr. Univ. São Paulo, Zoologia (20): 263–271 + pl. 1.Google Scholar
  20. Garnett, H., 1928. Rhynchodemus britannicus Percival. North West. Nat. Arbroath 3: 186–187.Google Scholar
  21. Hull, F. M., 1947. Observations on cannibalism in planarians. Trans. Am. Microsc. Soc. 66: 96–98.Google Scholar
  22. Hyman, L. H., 1951. The Invertebrates, II. Platyhelminthes and Rhynchocoela. McGraw-Hill, N.Y., 550 pp.Google Scholar
  23. Jennings, J. B., 1959. Observations of the nutrition of the land planarian Orthodemus terrestris (O. F. Müller). Biol. Bull. 117: 119–124.Google Scholar
  24. Jennings, J. B., 1962. Further studies on feeding and digestion in the triclad turbellaria. Biol. Bull. 124: 571–581.Google Scholar
  25. Jennings, J. B., 1963. Some aspects of nutrition in the Turbellaria, Trematoda and Rhynchocoela. In Dougherty, E. C. et al. (eds), The Lower Metazoa. Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley: 345–353.Google Scholar
  26. Jennings, J. B., 1968. Nutrition and Digestion, Ch. 2., In Florkin, M. & B. T. Scheer (eds), Chemical Zoology, II. Porifera, Coelenterata and Platyhelminthes. Academic Press, Lond., 303–326.Google Scholar
  27. Johri, L. N., 1952. A report on a turbellaria Placocephalus kewense, from Delhi State and its feeding behaviour on the live earthworm, Pheretima posthuma. Sci. Cult. Calcutta 18: 291.Google Scholar
  28. Jones, H. D., 1993. The feeding behaviour of Microplana termitophaga in Zimbabwe. VIIth International Symposium on the Biology of the Turbellaria, Abst. 55, Åbo/Turku, Finland, 17–22 June, 1993.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, H. D., J. P. E. C. Darlington & R. M. Newson, 1990. A new species of land planarian preying on termites in Kenya (Platyhelminthes: Turbellaria: Tricladida: Terricola). J. Zool., Lond. 220: 249–256.Google Scholar
  30. Kaneda, M., K. I. Kitagawa & F. Ichinole, 1990. laboratory rearing method and biology of Platydemus manokwari de Beauchamp (Tricladida: Terricola: Rhychodemidae). Appl. Ent. Zool. 25: 524–528.Google Scholar
  31. Kawakatsu, M., 1969. A list of publications on Japanese turbellarians (1968). Including titles of publications on foreign turbellarians written by the Japanes authors. Bull. Fuji Women's Coll, (7), ser. 2: 23–42.Google Scholar
  32. Kawakatsu, M. & K. Y. Lue, 1984. History of the study of turbellarians in China. Part 2. Age of studies by Japanese and Chinese turbellariologists. Bull. Fuji Women's Coll., (22) ser. 2: 105–117.Google Scholar
  33. Kawakatsu, M., S. Tamura & K.-Y. Lue 1984. Preprint of papers given at the fourth International Symposium on the Turbellaria. Occ. Publ., Biological Laboratory of Fuji Women's College, Sapporo (Hokkaido), Japan. (12): 20 pp.Google Scholar
  34. Kawakatusu, M., I. Oki, S. Tamura, H. Itô, Y. Nagai, K. Ogura, S. Shimabukuro, F. Ichinohe, H. Katsumata and M. Kaneda, 1993. An extensive occurrence of a land planarian, Platydemus manokwari de Beauchamp, 1962, in the Ryûkyû Islands, Japan (Turbellaria, Tricladida, Terricola). Biol. Inl. Wat. No. 8: 5–14.Google Scholar
  35. Kawakatsu, M., R. E. Ogren & R. Munippan, 1992. Redescription of Platydemus manokwaris de Beauchamp, 1962 (Turbellaria: Tricladida: Terricola), from Guam and the Philippines. Proc. Jap. Soc. Syst. Zool. (47): 11–25.Google Scholar
  36. Landsperger, W. J., E. H. Peters & M. D. Dresden, 1981. Properties of a collagenolytic enzyme from Bipalium kewense. Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 661: 213–220.Google Scholar
  37. Lehnert, G. H., 1891. Beobachtungen an Landplanarien. Arch. Naturgesch. 57: 306–350.Google Scholar
  38. Little, C., 1983. The Colonisation of Land. Origins and adaptations of terrestrial animals. Cambridge University Press, New York, 290 pp.Google Scholar
  39. Lue, K.-Y. & M. Kawakatsu, 1986. History of the study of turbellarians in China. Part 1. Ages of Materia Medica and of early expeditions by westerns. Hydrobiologia 132 (Dev. Hydrobiol. 32): 317–322.Google Scholar
  40. Mead, A. R., 1963. A flatworm predator of the giant African snail Achatina fulica in Hawaii. Malacologia 1: 305–311.Google Scholar
  41. Mead, A. R., 1979. Economic Malacology with Particular Reference to Achatina fulica. Turbellarians, pp. 70–74. In: Fretter, V. & J. Peaks, (eds), Pulmonates, 2B, Academic Press, N.Y., pp. i–ix + 1–550.Google Scholar
  42. Miyoshi, Y., 1955. Observations on the food habit of Bipalium. Collect. & Breed., Tokyo 17: 377. (In Japanese).Google Scholar
  43. Moseley, H. N., 1875. On the anatomy and histology of the land-planarians of Ceylon, with some account of their habits, and a description of two new species, and with notes on the anatomy of some European acquatic species. Phil. Trans. r. Soc., Lond. 4: 105–171 + pls. 10–15.Google Scholar
  44. Muniappan, R., 1987. Biological control of the giant African snail, Achatina fulica Bowdich, in the Maldives. FAO Plant Bull. 35: 127–133.Google Scholar
  45. Muniappan, R., 1990. Use of the planarian Platydemus manokwari, and other natural enemies to control the giant African snail. In FECT Book Series (40): The use of Natural Enemies to Control Agricultural Pests: 179–183.Google Scholar
  46. Neck, R. W., 1987. A predatory terrestrial flatworm, Bipalium kewense, in Texas: Feral populations and laboratory observations. Texas J. Sci. 39: 267–271.Google Scholar
  47. Ogren, R. E., 1955. Ecological observations on the occurrence of Rhynchodemus, a terrestrial turbellarian. Trans. am. Microsc. Soc. 74: 54–60.Google Scholar
  48. Ogren, R. E., 1957. Physiological observations on movement and behavior of the land planarian Rhynchodemus sylvaticus (Leidy). Proc. Pa. Acad. Sci. 30: 218–225.Google Scholar
  49. Orgen, R. E., 1986. The human factor in the spread of an exotic land planarian in Pennsylvania. Proc Pa. Acad. Sci. 117–118.Google Scholar
  50. Ogren, R. E., M. Kawakatsu & E. M. Froehlich, 1992. Additions and corrections of the previous land planarian indices of the world (Turbellaria, Tricladida, Terricola). Bull. Fuji Women's College, (30), Ser. 2: 59–103.Google Scholar
  51. Ogren, R. E. & J. K. Sheldon, 1991. Ecological observations on the land planarian Bipalium pennsylvanicum Ogren, with references to phenology, reproduction, growth rate and food niche. J. Pa. Acad. Sci. 65: 3–9.Google Scholar
  52. Olewine, D. A., 1972. Further observations in Georgia on the land planarians, Bipalium kewense and Geoplana vaga (Turbellaria: Tricladida: Terricola). Assoc. Southeast. Biol. Bull. 19: 88.Google Scholar
  53. Pfitzner, I., 1958. Die Bedingungen der Fortbewegung bei den deutschen Landplanarien. Zool. Beitr. N.F. 3: 235–311.Google Scholar
  54. Rodriques, R. M., 1972. Ciclo Biologicoo de Geoplana burmeisteri Max Schultze, 1857 (Turbellaria, Tricladida, Terricola). Dissertaçao apresentada ao Deparatmento de Zoologia do Instituto de Biociências para obtencçao do titulo de mestre em Zoologia.Google Scholar
  55. Schremmer, F., 1955. Freilandfund der Landplanarie Rhynchodemus bilineatus Metsch. Verhandl. Zool. Bot. Ges. in Wein 94: 45–58.Google Scholar
  56. Schultze, M., 1857. Contributions to the knowledge of terrestrial planariae, from communications from Dr. Fritz Müller of Brazil and personal investigations. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. ser. 2, 20: 1–13.Google Scholar
  57. Schultze, M. & F. Müller, 1857. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Landplanarien nach Mittheilungen des Dr. Fritz Müller in Brasilien und nach eigenen Untersuchungen von Dr Max Schultze. Abhandl. Naturf. Ges. zu. Halle 4: 19–38.Google Scholar
  58. Sheppe, W., 1970. Invertebrate predation on termites of the African savanna. Insectes Soc., Paris, 17: 205–218.Google Scholar
  59. Spencer, W. B., 1891. Notes on some Victorian land planarians. Proc. r. Soc. Vict. N.S. 3 (for 1890): 84–93 + pls. 11–12.Google Scholar
  60. Steel, T., 1901. Australian land planarians: Descriptions of new species and notes of collecting and preserving. no. 2. Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S. Wales 25: 563–580 + pl. 34.Google Scholar
  61. von Graff, L., 1899. Monographie der Turbellarien. II. Tricladida Terricola (Landplanarien). Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 575 pp.Google Scholar
  62. von Graff, L., 1912–1917. Turbellaria. In Bronn, H. G. (ed.), Klassen und Ordnungen des Tier-Reichs, 4, Wermer: Vermes, Abt. 1c (Turbellaria), Abt. 2, 1–37 + 2601–3369 pp. C. F. Winter'sche Verlagshandlung, Leipzig.Google Scholar
  63. Wallner, W., 1937. Rhynchodemus terrestris, eine Landplanarie. Blätt Aquar. Terarienkunde 48: 224–227.Google Scholar
  64. Willis, R. J. & A. R. Edwards, 1977. The occurrence of the land planarian Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy) in Northern Ireland. Ir. Nat. J. 19: 112–116.Google Scholar
  65. Winsor, L., 1991. A new genus and species of terrestrial flatworm from the central highlands of New Caledonia (Tricladida Terricola). In Chazeau, J. & S. Tillier (eds), Zoologia Neocaledonica, II, Mém. Mus. natn. Hist. nat., (A), 149: 19–30. Paris.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert E. Ogren
    • 1
  1. 1.Wilkes UniversityWilkes-BarreUSA

Personalised recommendations