On 26th Oct 1997 I caught a flatworm near Udaipur from a moist place. The style of locomotion of worm was identical to that of an earthworm, except that it occasionally raised its head from the ground and moved it sideways just like a snake. It also expanded its head sideways considerably and its head looked like a hammer headed shark. During locomotion it crawled leaving behind a slimy trail. I sent the specimen to ZSI (Zoological Survey of India) on 15th of Nov 1997 for identification. Dr. A. Chattergee, a scientist of ZSI, identified it till Genus. Further correspondence showed they had no facility to identify it to species. ZSI kept the specimen for National Zoological collection numbered W8300/1 with my name as donor.
In the month of October 1998 I caught a few more specimen of the flat worm and sent a specimen to National History Museum, Britain. They identified it as Bipalium Smithi (von Groff 1899). Its dimensions are as under: –
Length of the body – 45 mm
Breadth of the body – 6 mm
Breadth of the head lobe – 5.5 mm
Position of the mouth from the anterior end – 22 mm
Position of the genital opening from the anterior end – 29 mm
Free-living flat worms (tubellaria) are rare and least studied worms of the world. In this subcontinent free-living flat worms were first collected by M. Sarasin in 1883 from Sri Lanka. Historically the most interesting land planarian collected in India is B. Smithi, since it is first described from this country with some degree of certainty. The other few mentioned previous to 1914 were all vaguely described and the accounts are practically useless.
Prior to this, four specimens were colleted from Darjeeling by Lord Carmicheal, Dr. Gravely and Major Bennett. This is the fifth land planarian collected from India.
I still have a few specimens of the flat worm and those interested in further study can contact me for the same.
Published in Cheetal (Journal of Wildlife Preservation Society of India)