2,742Grants to


Italian cave-dwelling flatworm (Dendrocoelum italicum)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 162514520

Conservation assessment of the subterranean aquatic planarians of Italy

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 162514520) - Italian cave-dwelling flatworm - Awarded $20,000 on March 15, 2017

The assessment for IUCN, thanks to the reuslts of this project is started and is planned to go further prior to 2022. 



Also different publications have been performed:


Manenti R., Lunghi E., Barzaghi B., Melotto A., Falschi M., Ficetola G. F., 2020. Do salamanders limit the abundance of groundwater invertebrates in subterranean habitats? Diversity, 12: 161. 


Manenti R., Barzaghi B., Tonni G., Ficetola G F., Melotto A., 2019. Even worms matter: cave habitat restoration for a planarian species has increased environmental suitability but not population density. Oryx, 53: 216-221


Manenti R., Barzaghi B., Lana E., Stocchino G. A., Manconi R., Lunghi, E., 2018. The stenoendemic cave-dwelling planarians (Platyhelminthes, Tricladida) of the Italian Alps and Apennines: conservation issues. Journal for Nature Conservation, 45: 90-97.




The main goal of this project is the conservation of all the troglobiont planarians of Italy and their assessment in the IUCN Red List on the basis of satisfactory quantitative data. These invertebrates, despite being important endemism and fundamental indicators for groundwater quality they are strongly neglected in the European and Italian legislation without any protection status.

Currently 10 species have been described for Italian caves, 7 for Italian peninsula and 3 for Sardinian caves. More other species have been recognised as likely different, but not yet described. Except for one, Dendrocoelum collinii, all the known species are endemic of small single karst areas and in most cases of even only  a single cave, their distribution being never investigated after the description. 

Even when their range is included in protected areas, they do not compare in the actions plans of the parks or of the reservoirs in which they occur as for example for the species Dendrocoelum italicum and D. benazzii.

Moreover for all the species, since their description there is a lack of information on populations abundance, distribution and ecology. Some of them have never been reported to be contacted again since then. We aim to perform multiple surveys for each of the 10 Italian described species: 

Dendrocoelum italicum;

Dendrocoelum collinii;

Dendrocoelum beauchampii;

Dendrocoelum benazzii;

Dendrocoelum nuraghum;

Dendrocoelum vesiculosum;

Atrioplanaria morisii;

Polycelis benazzii;

Dugesia brigantii;

Phagocata obscura.


We will perform at least two complete assessments in all the caves were each species is reported and in the caves of the surrounding karst areas. At each assessment, caves will be entirely explored and their aquatic habitats divided into sectors in which we will number planarians and we will record several environmental variables. Through the n-mixture models we will estimate populations abundances for each sectors and we will perform multivariate analyses to  evaluate the role played by habitat features in determining planarians abundance and distribution. The collected data will be used to perform  the assessment in the IUCN red list and to start to require a protection status of these species.






Project document