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Hirudo medicinalis

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA ANNELIDA CLITELLATA ARHYNCHOBDELLIDA HIRUDINIDAE

Scientific Name: Hirudo medicinalis
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name(s):
English European Medicinal Leech
French Sangsue Médicinale, Sangsue Officinale

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2013-12-19
Assessor(s): Utevsky, S., Zagmajster, M. & Trontelj, P.
Reviewer(s): Gerlach, J.
Justification:
Neither a reduction in population sizes nor a decline in the geographical ranges in comparison with previous records have been detected. On the other hand, the potential and actual loss of wetland habitats, the global decline of amphibians, abandonment of traditional grazing practices and the scarcity of mammalian blood in leech diet are likely to affect populations and geographical ranges. It seems very likely that such losses have already happened, but have remained unnoticed because of the lack of field research and/or taxonomic expertise. It is likely that ongoing deterioration in many wetland habitats and projected effects of climate change will result in a 20-30% decline in the area of good quality habitat. The associated projected population decline makes this species Near Threatened, and likely to move to a Vulnerable category over the next 10 years.
History:
1994 Indeterminate (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Indeterminate (IUCN 1990)
1988 Indeterminate (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Indeterminate (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Hirudo medicinalis is distributed from Britain and southern Norway to the southern Urals and probably as far as the Altai Mountains, occupying the deciduous arboreal zone.

Countries:
Native:
Austria; Belarus; Croatia; Czech Republic; France; Germany; Hungary; Latvia; Lithuania; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Russian Federation; Slovenia; Sweden; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Hirudo medicinalis has experienced recent rapid population growth and range expansion. The European medicinal leech has low genetic diversity, which is in agreement with their fast spreading. On the other hand, the potential and actual loss of wetland habitats, the global decline of amphibians, abandonment of traditional grazing practices and the scarcity of mammalian blood in leech diet are likely to affect populations and geographical ranges.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

It occurs in ponds, waters that dry up periodically, floodplain pools and small lakes. Other ecological requirements include abundant hosts (frogs, cattle and horses), silty water bottoms, dense submerged and emergent vegetation and gently sloping banks favourable for laying cocoons.

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

The European medicinal leech can be used for bloodletting. However, related species are usually used for medical purposes and in life sciences as model organisms.  The European medicinal leech is a classic laboratory object used for educational purposes.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species can be threatened locally by collecting pressure.  Threats also include loss of wetland habitats, the global decline of amphibians and abandonment of traditional grazing practices. Drained and agriculturally ameliorated stretches are devoid of European medicinal leeches.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is listed under Appendix III of the Bern Convention, Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Annex V of the Habitats Directive.

Citation: Utevsky, S., Zagmajster, M. & Trontelj, P. 2014. Hirudo medicinalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 29 November 2014.
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