Short Communication
Short Communication
English names of the megadrile earthworms (Oligochaeta) of KwaZulu-Natal
expand article infoAdrian John Armstrong, Thembeka Clara Nxele§
‡ Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
§ KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Open Access


Certain groups of invertebrates are becoming mainstreamed in conservation activities in KwaZulu-Natal, especially taxa that have many narrow-range species endemic to the province. As a result, there may be a need to assign common (in this case English) names where these are unavailable. A list of scientific names and standardised common names is presented for earthworm species occurring in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, north-eastern South Africa.


Earthworms, English names, Acanthodrilinae , Microchaetidae , Tritogeniidae , KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This paper is the second providing English names for invertebrate groups that have many species endemic to the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspot in the eastern region of South Africa, in the middle of which lies most of the province of KwaZulu-Natal (Mittermeier et al. 2005). The reasons for providing English names for these invertebrates, including now earthworms, are given in Armstrong and Hamer (2015). Land transformation is probably the most important threat facing indigenous earthworm species in KwaZulu-Natal (e.g. Plisko 2000a), and 53 % of the total provincial landscape was in a natural state in 2011 (Jewitt et al. 2015). By 2050, Jewitt et al. (2015) estimate that 45 % of KwaZulu-Natal will remain in a natural state. As a result, the conservation requirements of the endemic invertebrate species need to be included in conservation planning and environmental impact assessments (McGeoch et al. 2011). The vulnerability of these species to extinction needs to be communicated to the general public who relate more to English names than scientific names. Eighty-eight earthworm species are currently thought to be endemic to KwaZulu-Natal, and many have very small total distribution ranges. Earthworms are slowly being incorporated into conservation planning and environmental impact assessments in KwaZulu-Natal (McGeoch et al. 2011). The provided list can be used as the basis for common names of genera and species elsewhere in South Africa should this be required.

The scientific name of an earthworm species may be based on the Latin or Greek language, or sometimes on the English or local language. The name of the species may refer to selected, specific, external or internal anatomical characters, based often on a single specimen, the Holotype, during its description. These characters may not be fully developed in an immature specimen. Many species have been named after the type locality, but this does not mean that it is the only species present at that locality. Many species are named after a person who collected, or assisted with the collection of, the specimen or who donated the specimen to a collection. Such a name does not indicate any diagnostic characters for the identification of the species. The same goes for species named in honour of a person or a property, or for species named for any other reason apart from a diagnostic identification character. All of the implemented common names should be treated as additional descriptions of the species with respect to already existing data.

Methods of compilation

English names for various species of earthworm have been in use for some time (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Biodiversity Database). These common names were taken as the starting point for the naming of the earthworm species in KwaZulu-Natal. Some genera in the province can be given names according to characteristics that are quite easily observable to the lay-person. However, since the internal organs and minute external setae are important distinguishing characteristics of families, genera and species of earthworm, the scientific names may reflect some aspect of these distinguishing characteristics. Therefore the name often does not describe readily observable features. The species occurring in KwaZulu-Natal and the scientific nomenclature were obtained from relevant publications (Nxele 2015; Plisko 1992, 1993, 1996a,b, 1997, 1998, 2000a,b, 2002a,b, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013; Plisko and Zicsi 1991; Pickford 1927, 1937; Kinberg 1867; Michaelsen 1899, 1907, 1913, 1928; Benham 1892; Beddard 1897, 1907; Reinecke and Ryke 1969; Cognetti de Martiis 1906; Zicsi 1998; Zicsi and Pajor 1992).

Figure 1. 

Subfamily Acanthodrilinae (Bristly earthworms): Timothy’s bristly earthworm Parachilota timothyi Plisko, 2008.

Figure 2. 

Family Microchaetidae (wrinkled earthworms): green giant wrinkled earthworm Microchaetus papillatus Benham, 1892.

Figure 3. 

Family Microchaetidae (wrinkled earthworms): setaceous wrinkled earthworm Proandricus setosus Plisko, 1996.

Figure 4. 

Family Tritogeniidae (stumpy earthworms): Zululand stumpy earthworm Tritogenia zuluensis (Beddard, 1907).


Table 1 gives the scientific names and English names of the species of earthworms known from KwaZulu-Natal.

Table 1.

English names for earthworms in the subfamily Acanthodrilinae and families Microchaetidae and Tritogeniidae occurring in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Subfamily Acanthodrilinae Bristly earthworms (Fig. 1). English name derived from their characteristic setae.
Chilota dilatus Plisko, 2007 Projecting-papillae bristly earthworm
Chilota quindecimus Pickford, 1937 Unique-fifteenth-segment bristly earthworm
Eodriloides thompsoni Plisko, 2007 Thomson’s bristly earthworm
Parachilota braunsi (Michaelsen, 1899) Brauns’ bristly earthworm
Parachilota editha (Pickford, 1927) Edith’s bristly earthworm
Parachilota hutchinsoni Pickford, 1937 Hutchinson’s bristly earthworm
Parachilota karkloofi Zicsi, 1998 Karkloof bristly earthworm
Parachilota kranskopensis Pickford, 1937 Kranskop bristly earthworm
Parachilota minimus Zicsi & Pajor, 1992 Small bristly earthworm
Parachilota nanus Pickford, 1937 Dwarf bristly earthworm
Parachilota ncandu Plisko, 2008 Ncandu bristly earthworm
Parachilota photodilus (Beddard, 1897) Coastal bristly earthworm
Parachilota timothyi Plisko, 2008 Timothy’s bristly earthworm
Parachilota traegardhi (Michaelsen, 1907) Traegardh’s bristly earthworm
Parachilota uysae Plisko, 2008 Uys’ bristly earthworm
Parachilota wahlbergi (Michaelsen, 1899) Wahlberg’s bristly earthworm
Parachilota warreni (Michaelsen, 1913) Warren’s bristly earthworm
Parachilota wittebergensis Pickford, 1937 Witteberg bristly earthworm
Udeina adriani Plisko, 2004 Adrian’s bristly earthworm
Udeina anneae Plisko, 2004 Anne’s bristly earthworm
Udeina mapelane Plisko, 2004 Mapelane bristly earthworm
Udeina nkandla Plisko, 2004 Nkandla bristly earthworm
Udeina petrosi Plisko, 2004 Petros’ bristly earthworm
Udeina pliskoae Zicsi, 1998 Plisko’s bristly earthworm
Udeina qudeni Plisko, 2004 Qudeni bristly earthworm
Family Microchaetidae Wrinkled earthworms (Figs 2, 3). English names derived from their many body rings.
Geogenia ambita (Plisko, 1998) Encircling-gland wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia caementerii (Michaelsen, 1913) Pietermaritzburg wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia distasmosa Plisko, 2003 Interesting wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia gripha Plisko, 2002 Puzzle wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia herberti Plisko, 2002 Herbert’s wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia idechorita Plisko, 2003 Ngele forest wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia minnehaha Nxele, 2015 Minnehaha wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia mkuzi Plisko, (1992) Mkuzi wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia natalensis (Kinberg, 1867) Natal wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia parva (Michaelsen, 1913) Little wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia pondoana (Michaelsen, 1913) Pondoland wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia quaera Plisko, 2003 Hluhluwe wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia tegwana Plisko, 2005 Tegwan wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia tuberosa (Plisko, 1998) Glandular wrinkled earthworm
Geogenia zaloumisi (Plisko, 1992) Zaloumis’ wrinkled earthworm
Microchaetus papillatus Benham, 1892 Green giant wrinkled earthworm
Microchaetus vernoni Plisko, 1992 Vernon’s giant wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus adami Plisko, 2003 Adam’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus adriani Plisko, 2000 Adrian’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus alatus Plisko, 1996 Flanged wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus amphius Plisko, 2003 Encircling-clitellum wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus armstrongi Plisko, 2002 Armstrong’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus babanango Plisko, 1992 Babanango wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus beddardi (Benham, 1892) Beddard’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus bergvillensis Plisko, 2000 Bergville wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus bourquini Plisko, 1996 Bourquin’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus bulwerensis Plisko, 1992 Bulwer wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus colletti (Beddard, 1907) Collett’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus comptus Plisko, 1996 Ornamented wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus crookesi Plisko, 2002 Crookes’ wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus entumeni Plisko, 1992 Entumeni wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus gracilis (Michaelsen, 1907) Slender wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus hedothecus Plisko, 2000 Pongola wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus hlatikulu Plisko, 2002 Hlatikulu wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus holbeck Plisko, 2005 Holbeck wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus injasuti Plisko, 2002 Injasuti wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus ivari (Michaelsen, 1907) Midlands wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus jasoni Plisko, 1992 Jason’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus lesothoensis (Reinecke & Ryke, 1969) Lesotho wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus lovuus Plisko, 2003 Lovu wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus marleyi (Michaelsen, 1928) Marley’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus martensi Plisko, 2002 Martens’ wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus michelleae Plisko, 2002 Michelle’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus modestus (Michaelsen, 1899) Modest wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus notabilis Plisko, 2005 Noteworthy wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus oresbiosus Plisko, 2003 Mountain-dwelling wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus ortyi Plisko, 2000 Orty’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus pajori Plisko, 1993 Pajor’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus richerti Plisko, 2002 Richert’s wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus setosus Plisko, 1996 Setaceous wrinkled earthworm
Proandricus thornvillensis Plisko, 1992 Thornville wrinkled earthworm
Family Tritogeniidae Stumpy earthworms (Fig. 4). The English name is derived from the relatively plump, compact shape, usually shorter than species of Microchaetidae.
Michalakus initus Plisko, 1996 Two-gizzard stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia alveata Plisko, 1997 Invaginated stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia annetteae Plisko, 1997 Annette’s stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia ataxia Plisko, 1997 Disorderly-bristled stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia curiosa Plisko, 1997 Curious stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia curta Plisko & Zicsi, 1991 Short stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia debbieae Plisko, 2003 Debbie’s stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia diversa Plisko, 1997 Diverse stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia douglasi Plisko, 1997 Douglas’ stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia herbana Plisko, 1997 Herb stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia hiltonia Plisko, 2003 Hilton stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia howickiana (Michaelsen, 1913) Howick stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia insolita Plisko, 1997 Trapeziform-clitellum stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia karkloofia Plisko & Zicsi, 1991 Karkloof stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia koilia Plisko, 1997 Oval-tuberculate stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia liversagei Plisko, 1997 Liversage’s stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia lunata Plisko, 1997 Crescent-shaped-tuberculate stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia melmothana (Michaelsen, 1928) Melmoth stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia miniseta Plisko, 1997 Minute-bristled stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia monosticha Plisko, 1997 Single-rowed stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia morosa Cognetti de Martiis,1906 Morose stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia mucosa Plisko & Zicsi, 1991 Slimy stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia ngelensis Plisko, 1997 Ngele stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia ngomensis Plisko, 1992 Ngome stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia phinda Plisko, 2005 Phinda stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia qudeni Plisko, 2003 Qudeni stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia shawi Plisko & Zicsi, 1991 Shaw’s stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia soleata Plisko, 1997 Horseshoe-gland stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia sulcata Kinberg, 1867 Glandular stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia tetrata Plisko, 2003 Four-rowed stumpy earthworm
Tritogenia zuluensis (Beddard, 1907) Zululand stumpy earthworm

Discussion and conclusions

The list of species of earthworms in KwaZulu-Natal gives each species a standardized English name that can be used for conservation planning and other conservation activities. Although identification of earthworm species usually has to be done by specialists and trained technicians, certain genera or species can be distinguished by external features such as feel, size and colour, in conjunction with distribution. Nevertheless, keys are available to distinguish between genera and species, including introduced species (e.g. Plisko 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000b, 2002a, 2004, 2006, 2013; Plisko and Nxele 2015; Plisko and Zicsi 1991; Zicsi and Pajor 1992). We trust that this short communication will assist with the inclusion of earthworm taxa in conservation activities and planning.


We thank Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the KwaZulu-Natal Museum for assisting with the research and publication of this work. The ideas, arguments and opinions expressed in this manuscript are that of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. Danuta Plisko and Csaba Csuzdi are thanked for their useful comments and suggestions which improved the manuscript.


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