Onychophora Newsletter

No. 5 / July 1995

Editor and publisher: J. Monge-Nájera.

Editorial Board: B. Morera, C.E. Valerio, J.A. Vargas

It is hard to believe that I have been publishing the Onychophora Newsletter for eight years... Well, anyway, this fifth number is almost fully dedicated to presenting an updated directory of the growing number of people interested in the "velvet worms". Of course you will also find some general news as well as a summary of what some active researchers are doing. I hope you will find this new edition useful. Until next time, best wishes to everyone.

J. Monge-Nájera


Supplement On Onychophora

The much expected Zoological Journal supplement with the first Onychophora meeting memoirs has finally seen the light. It was edited by Drs. Muriel Walker and D.B. Norman. I do not have information about final contents or the price but you can consult Dr. Walker directly.

Onychophora Conservation

Albeit the results of the Onychophora Conservation survey done by our Australian colleagues in 1994 do not seem to be public yet, several reports state that species that can survive in disturbed areas exist in places so distant as Central America and Australia. The occurrence of populations in cacao and coffee plantations, cattle grasslands and house gardens proves that there is still hope for some deforested regions. While I failed to find any onychophorans in logs around the beautiful Cacao Volcano highland (northwest Costa Rica) a group of parataxonomists" from the Costa Rican Biodiversity Institute (INBio) found more than a dozen near a wall of the field station there. Similarly, a forthcoming note by Javier Icochea in Conservation International presents a new record for Cordillera del Cóndor in the Peruvian Amazon region, based on a specimen found near a field station

Cave Life

The French Encyclopedia Biospeologica (1994 edition) includes a brief chapter on onychophorans by University of Hamburg«s Hilke Ruhberg. She presents the following classification that you may find of interest:

  1. Troglobitic (true cave-inhabiting) species: Peripatopsis alba Lawrence, 1931 and Speleoperipatus spelaeus Peck 1975.
  2. Troglobiomorphic (eyeless but not found in caves) species: Tasmanipatus anophthalmus Ruhberg et al. 1991 and Typhloperipatus williamsoni Kemp, 1913.
  3. Troglophile (epigean) species (that enter caves):
    Peripatoides indigo Ruhberg, 1985, Peripatoides novaezealandiae (Hutton, 1876) and Ooperipatellus insignis (Dendy, 1890).

    She also qualifies P. novaezealandiae and O. insignis as trogloxene because during dry times they may find a moist refuge in caves. Peripatus acacioi Marcus & Marcus is classified as a subsoil species because of the habitat where it is found in Brazil. However, many other species probably occur in soil microcaverns but collectors seldom look for them there. Documented cases are also known from Costa Rica, Trinidad and South Africa (Monge-Nájera, J. & José P. Alfaro. 1995. Geographic variation of habitats in Costa Rican velvet worms (Onychophora: Peripatidae). Biogeographica 71 (3), in press).

Are Cambrian Fossils Really Onychophorans?

Despite the strong case presented by Dr. Hou Xianguang and colleagues, not everyone seems to consider some Cambrian lobopodor oncopodophore fossils as true onychophorans. Of course there are good arguments on both sides and new approaches are needed. A morphometric comparison of all known Yunnan fossils with 69 living taxa shows that the relation between body length and number of leg pairs in fossil species is within the range of extant species (Monge-Nájera and Hou, in preparation).

What's Doing?

This includes those newsletter readers who have been kind enough to inform me about their activities and interests.

In Latin America, Dr. Pedro León and M.Sc. Marielos Mora continue their molecular biology studies of Costa Rican onychophorans. Francisco Hernández is preparing a report on the brain and embryo morphology of Epiperipatus biolleyi, while in Peru, Lic. Javier Icochea is taking as many notes as possible on the specimens he finds during herpetological collecting trips. M.Sc. Carmen Pozo de la Tejera is interested in expanding the known geographic range of Mexican species.

In the U.S.A. Dr. Pamela Roe is still interested in obtaining all sorts of material useful for teaching onychophorology to college students. Dr. William A. Shear is reconstructing the ecological factors that shaped the adaptation of marine organisms to life on land (onychophorans were originally marine).

In England, Dr. Virginia van der Lande is finishing a report of her field work in Iran Jaya/Papua-New Guinea and Muriel Walker continues her electron microscope study of species from South Africa and Brazil.In Germany, Dr. Hilke Ruhberg is very busy with the taxonomy of Tasmanian species, while Prof. Dr. Wolfgang BÆckeler and Prof. Dr. V. Storch are working on the ultrastructure of E. biolleyi «s head and reproductive system, respectively. Ph.D. Candidate Gero Hilken is interested in the tracheal system of onychophorans and its relation with myriapod tracheae.

Onychophoran fossils continue to receive attention in Sweden from Dr. J. Bergstran, Dr.L. Ramskold and Dr. H. Xianguang. Finally, the team of Dr. Noel Tait is preparing the second international meeting on onychophorans, to be held in Australia and still finds time for important work on the biochemistry of Australian species, including an extraordinary report of how Cephalofovea males use their cephalic pits to insert spermatophores with the assistance of females, which appress the male head with their oncopods. Dr. Tait«s student, Dr. Mandy Reid, will soon finish her taxonomic inquire of egg-laying species and is looking for specimens that may lay forgotten in museums worldwide.

Did You Receive Them?

I have tried to keep you well supplied with reprints of work in which I participate, but if I forgot to send you any please use the list below to let me know. Gracias.

  1. 1988. Morera, B., B., J. Monge-Nájera & R. SÆenz. Parturition in onychophorans: new record and a review. Brenesia 29: 15-20.
  2. 1990. Morera, B. & J. Monge Nájera. Epiperipatus hilkae, n. sp. from Costa Rica (Onychophora: Peripatidae). Revista de Biología Tropical 38(2B): 449-455.
  3. 1991. Monge-Nájera, J. An evolutionary interpretation of fertilization patterns in the Onychophora. Onychophora Newsletter.31: 2-4.
  4. 1993. Monge-Nájera, J., Z. Barrientos & F. Aguilar. 1993. Behavior of Epiperipatus biolleyi (Onychophora: Peripatidae) under laboratory conditions. Rev. Biol. Trop. 41(3): 689-696.
  5. 1994. Monge-Nájera, J. & B. Morera. Morphological and physiological characteristics of two species of Epiperipatus from Costa Rica (Onychophora: Peripatidae). Rev. Biol. Trop. 42 (1/2): 181-188.
  6. 1994. Monge-Nájera, J. Ecological Biogeography in the Phylum Onychophora. Biogeographica 70 (3): 111-123.
  7. 1994. Monge-Nájera, J. . Reproductive trends, habitat type and body characteristics in velvet worms (Onychophora). Rev. Biol. Trop. 42 (3): 611-622.
  8. 1995. Monge-Nájera, J. Phylogeny, biogeography and reproductive trends in the Onychophora. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. London 114: 21-60.
  9. 1995. Monge-Nájera, J. & José P. Alfaro. Geographic variation of habitats in Costa Rican velvet worms (Onychophora: Peripatidae). Biogeographica 71 (3):
  10. 1995. Monge-Nájera, J. & W. LourenÆo. Biogeographic implications of evolutionary trends in onychophorans and scorpions. Biogeographica 71(4): 179-185.
  11. 1996. Monge-Nájera, J. Jurassic-Pliocene biogeography: testing a model with velvet worm (Onychophora) vicariance. Rev. Biol. Trop. 44: 159-175.