Scientists found ancient leech on Putorana plateau

Scientists found ancient leech on Putorana plateau

August 04, 2023

Zoologists know nothing about the way of life and nutrition of the relic species.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Researchers have found five new species and one new genus of leeches in Arctic waters – the work of scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences Ural Branch’s Federal Research Center for Comprehensive Study of the Arctic and St. Petersburg State University (SPbSU) took ten years.

The studies were carried out on the Kola peninsula, in the Malozemelskaya tundra, on the Kanin peninsula, Kolguyev island, in the Bolshezemelskaya tundra, the Polar Urals, on Yamal, Taimyr, the Putorana plateau, the Kolyma Highlands and Chukotka. The work also included information about the fauna of leeches in Arctic Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland.

In one of the mountain lakes of the Putorana plateau, scientists found a new genus and species of leeches Hyperboreomyzon polaris, and a new species was also found in Olenye lake near the Hatanga settlement. This is reported by the publication Scientific Russia.

The Putorana plateau is one of the most inaccessible and therefore little-studied places on the planet

The Eurasia Arctic zone fauna includes 14 species of flat leeches belonging to five genera. Five species and one genus were new to science. The research team also identified the northernmost point of the flat leeches range – the Taimyr peninsula, 72 degrees north latitude.

The researchers consider the most interesting find to be the polar hyperboreomyzon (Hyperboreomyzon polaris), a new relict genus and species of leeches, which was found on Kolguyev Island and the Putorana plateau. This rather large, up to two centimeters long, dark brown leech is covered with knobbles.

“We could not attribute it to any of the known genera either in terms of morphology or genetics. This is a relic, very ancient and rare leech. It is surprising that none of the previous scientists met it. The likely reason is that this species lives only in the most remote and hard-to-reach areas, such as Kolguyev and Putorana. Theoretically, it can be found somewhere in the highlands of Asia, for example, in the Sayans or Altai”, says one of the study authors, the Academician Laverov Center director, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Ivan Bolotov.

The scientist says that this leech is still a mystery – there is no data on its lifestyle and nutrition. The leech was found in small reservoirs where there are no fish. On the Putorana plateau, it could live for a long time, and it came to Kolguyev island along with migratory birds. But these are just hypotheses.

Zoologists are sure that the Putorana leech and another species found in only one lake in the Polar Urals should be included in the Red Book of Russia.

Earlier, in the mountain lakes of the Putorana plateau, scientists found an unknown species of crustaceans and plants unexpected for this place. The researchers found that Taimyr is the territory with the highest alpha diversity of lake plankton in the world. Also, we reported that the Putorana plateau was included in the top twenty natural wonders of Russia, and the Putoransky reserve topped the rating of the most inaccessible and mysterious places.

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Text: Angelica Stepanova, Photo: Nikolay Shchipko

August 04, 2023

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