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SP 59. Keys to the Freshwater Microturbellarians of Britain and Ireland, With Notes on Their Ecology

by J.O. Young

Published by The Freshwater Biological Association, Ambleside, June 2001

142 pages, ISBN 0 900386 66 5

Price £20.00

This publication provides a series of keys which, for the first time, enable the user to identify 56 species of free-living microturbellarians that currently have been recorded from Britain and Ireland.  Like the larger triclads, which were the subject of the FBA's previous Scientific Publication (No. 58), they occur in a wide range of freshwater and brackish habitats, but are less widely known, perhaps because of their small size.  With a body length often less than 3 mm and a lanceolate shape, popular methods of collecting benthic macronvertebrates may result in the escape of these small microinvertebrates through relatively coarse meshes of most pond-nets.  Unfortunately, preservation of pond-net samples results in microturbellarians being reduced to insignificant, dull-coloured masses.  Hence this publication includes informative and essential sections on collection, preservation (for histological examination) and methods of identifying live animals.  Dr Young has also produced a comprehensive summary of the literature on the general biology and ecology of the group, much of which is available only in German.

The occurrence of some species in temporary, brackish and polluted waters suggests that the group may be useful as part of a monitoring programme for water quality.  The clearly illustrated keys provide biologists with one of the necessary tools to investigate this as well as providing an incentive to look for previously undescribed species.  It is hoped that this volume will bring Microturbellarians to the attention of more freshwater biologists than hitherto and help promote more research on this particular component of the benthic invertebrate fauna.

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