Diversity of Leeches from Japan: Recent Progress in Macrophagous and Blood-Feeding Taxa

Part of the Diversity and Commonality in Animals book series (DCA)


The species diversity of the leeches from Japan and recent progress in taxonomic and molecular phylogenetic studies on macrophagous and blood-feeding taxa are reviewed. At present, 64 species are known in Japan, which are classified into 38 genera in 9 families. Recent taxonomic and molecular phylogenetic analyses have revealed that the terrestrial macrophagous genus Orobdella is the most diverse taxon among the genera distributed in Japan. The phylogenetic relationships and geographic distributions of Orobdella species suggest that this genus has been highly influenced by geological events and geographic boundaries. In contrast, phylogenetic relationships between blood-feeding species of the genus Haemadipsa show that Japanese species do not form a monophyletic group, suggesting multiple origins of the species. Phylogenetic relationships of Haemadipsa rjukjuana shed light on the incongruence between its genetic structure and geographic distances. The results indicate that blood-feeding leeches have been dispersed via long-distance migrants. The low genetic diversity of freshwater predatory Mimobdella in the Ryukyu Islands, as well as the presence of the freshwater-introduced species in Japan, indicate the possibility of the influence of human activities on the present distribution of freshwater species.


Hirudinida Species diversity Japan Phylogeny Orobdella Haemadipsa Mimobdella 



The author is grateful to Dr. Ko Tomikawa (Hiroshima University) for helpful discussions, to one anonymous reviewer, and to Dr. Yi-Te Lai (National Taiwan University) and Dr. Masaharu Motokawa (The Kyoto University Museum) for their constructive comments and suggestions.

Note Added in Proof After this manuscript was accepted for publication, 4 new species of Orobdella have been described from the western part of Honshu, and Shikoku, Japan (Nakano 2016a, b). Orobdella brachyepididymis Nakano, 2016b and Onaraharaetmagarum Nakano, 2016a are small type quadrannulate species belonging to the Korean Peninsula to Taiwan lineage, whereas the middle type sexannulate Ookanoi Nakano, 2016b and Oyamaneae Nakano, 2016b, and the large type octannulate Onakahamai Nakano, 2016b are phylogenetically close to the Honshu lineage species (Nakano 2016b).

Mimobdella japonica has been also recorded from the volcanic Hachijojima Island, Izu Islands, Japan (Nakano and Meyer-Rochow 2016). Mitochondrial DNA sequences of the specimens from the island revealed that they had identical sequences to those obtained from Mjaponica distributed in the Ryukyu Islands (Nakano and Meyer-Rochow 2016).


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© Springer Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science Education, Graduate School of EducationHiroshima UniversityHigashihiroshimaJapan

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