Life history, distribution and abundance of the giant earthworm Rhinodrilus alatus RIGHI 1971: conservation and management implications

História de vida, distribuição e abundância do minhocuçu Rhinodrilus alatus RIGHI 1971: implicações para sua conservação e manejo

MA. Drumond AQ. Guimarães HR. El Bizri LC. Giovanetti DG. Sepúlveda RP. Martins About the authors

Rhinodrilus alatus is an endemic giant earthworm of the Brazilian Cerrado hotspot used as live bait for about 80 years. The goal of this study was to gather ecological data about this species, which will support the establishment of management strategies. The life history, distribution and abundance of R. alatus were investigated in Cerrado, pastures and Eucalyptus plantation areas following the harvesting activities of the local extractors of this species. We found that this earthworm is abundant in all of the sampled areas, showing its resilience to land-use conversion. The Capture Per Unit Effort was 4.4 ± 5 individuals per 100 metres of transect and 5.6 ± 3 individuals per hour. The earthworm's annual cycle is markedly seasonal, with an aestivation period throughout the driest and coldest season of the year. Significant differences in the length and diameter of the body and in the diameter and depth of the aestivation chambers were found between the juveniles and adults. The distribution range of the species was expanded from two to 17 counties. The life history, abundance, distribution and resilience of R. alatus to certain perturbations are key elements to be considered in conservation and management strategies for this species.

adaptive strategies; Cerrado; life history; Oligochaeta; conservation biology

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