Open Access Open Badges Data Note

A dataset comprising four micro-computed tomography scans of freshly fixed and museum earthworm specimens

Jennifer Lenihan1, Sebastian Kvist1, Rosa Fernández1, Gonzalo Giribet1 and Alexander Ziegler2*

Author Affiliations

1 Museum of Comparative Zoology, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

2 Ziegler Biosolutions, Fahrgasse 5, 79761 Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany

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GigaScience 2014, 3:6  doi:10.1186/2047-217X-3-6

Published: 16 May 2014



Although molecular tools are increasingly employed to decipher invertebrate systematics, earthworm (Annelida: Clitellata: ‘Oligochaeta’) taxonomy is still largely based on conventional dissection, resulting in data that are mostly unsuitable for dissemination through online databases. In order to evaluate if micro-computed tomography (μCT) in combination with soft tissue staining techniques could be used to expand the existing set of tools available for studying internal and external structures of earthworms, μCT scans of freshly fixed and museum specimens were gathered.


Scout images revealed full penetration of tissues by the staining agent. The attained isotropic voxel resolutions permit identification of internal and external structures conventionally used in earthworm taxonomy. The μCT projection and reconstruction images have been deposited in the online data repository GigaDB and are publicly available for download.


The dataset presented here shows that earthworms constitute suitable candidates for μCT scanning in combination with soft tissue staining. Not only are the data comparable to results derived from traditional dissection techniques, but due to their digital nature the data also permit computer-based interactive exploration of earthworm morphology and anatomy. The approach pursued here can be applied to freshly fixed as well as museum specimens, which is of particular importance when considering the use of rare or valuable material. Finally, a number of aspects related to the deposition of digital morphological data are briefly discussed.

MicroCT; Morphology; Anatomy; Taxonomy; Lumbricidae; Aporrectodea; μCT; Repository; Imaging