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The Role of Local Knowledge and Traditional Extraction Practices in the Management of Giant Earthworms in Brazil

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The giant earthworm, Rhinodrilus alatus (Righi 1971), has been captured in the southeastern Brazilian Cerrado biome for approximately 80 years and used as bait for amateur fishing throughout Brazil. Local knowledge and traditional extraction practices are crucial for the establishment of management strategies for the species because, although its extraction involves conflicts and social and environmental impacts, the species is one of the major sources of income for approximately 3,000 people, especially for members of an Afro-descendant community that has approximately 2,000 inhabitants. Participatory tools, such as seasonal calendar, transect walks and participatory maps, were individually or collectively used with extractors and traders (former extractors), and 129 semi-structured and unstructured interviews were conducted with the same individuals between 2005 and 2012. The capture of Rhinodrilus alatus was observed in different seasons and areas of occurrence of the species in 17 municipalities, where this giant earthworm is the only species extracted for trade. All information obtained was verified by community members in 17 meetings. The extractors have an extensive knowledge of the life history, behavior, distribution, and possible impacts of climate change on the species. Different capture techniques, which have different impacts, are used during the dry and rainy seasons and are passed by the extractors through the generations. Local knowledge contributed to the establishment of agreements for the use of capture techniques that have less impact, to the expansion of scientific knowledge and the reassessment of the conservation status of Rhinodrilus alatus. The present study may serve as an example for management projects for other giant earthworm species in other regions of Brazil and in other countries.

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Fauna used in popular medicine in Northeast Brazil

Background Animal-based remedies constitute an integral part of Brazilian Traditional Medicine. Due to its long history, zootherapy has in fact become an integral part of folk medicine both in rural and urban areas of the country. In this paper we summarize current knowledge on zootherapeutic practices in Northeast of Brazil, based on information compiled from ethnobiological scientific literature. Methods In order to examine the diversity of animals used in traditional medicine in Northeast of Brazil, all available references or reports of folk remedies based on animals sources were examined. 34 sources were analyzed. Only taxa that could be identified to species level were included in assessment of medicinal animal species. Scientific names provided in publications were updated. Results The review revealed that at least 250 animal species (178 vertebrates and 72 invertebrates) are used for medicinal purposes in Northeast of Brazil. The inventoried species comprise 10 taxonomic categories and belong to 141 Families. The groups with the greatest number of species were fishes (n = 58), mammals (n = 47) and reptiles (n = 37). The zootherapeutical products are used for the treatment of different illnesses. The most widely treated condition were asthma, rheumatism and sore throat, conditions, which had a wide variety of animals to treat them with. Many animals were used for the treatment of multiple ailments. Beyond the use for treating human diseases, zootherapeutical resources are also used in ethnoveterinary medicine Conclusion The number of medicinal species catalogued was quite expressive and demonstrate the importance of zootherapy as alternative therapeutic in Northeast of Brazil. Although widely diffused throughout Brazil, zootherapeutic practices remain virtually unstudied. There is an urgent need to examine the ecological, cultural, social, and public health implications associated with fauna usage, including a full inventory of the animal species used for medicinal purposes and the socio-cultural context associated with their consumption.
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Ethnozoology in Brazil: current status and perspectives

Ancient connections between animals and human are seen in cultures throughout the world in multiple forms of interaction with the local fauna that form the core of Ethnozoology. Historically, ethnozoological publications grew out of studies undertaken in academic areas such as zoology, human ecology, sociology and anthropology - reflecting the interdisciplinary character of this discipline. The rich fauna and cultural diversity found in Brazil, with many different species of animals being used for an extremely wide diversity of purposes by Amerindian societies (as well as the descendents of the original European colonists and African slaves), presents an excellent backdrop for examining the relationships that exist between humans and other animals. This work presents a historical view of ethnozoological research in Brazil and examines its evolution, tendencies, and future perspectives. In summary, literature researches indicated that ethnozoology experienced significant advances in recent years in Brazil, although from a qualitative point of view improvement is still needed in terms of methodological procedures, taxonomic precision, and the use of quantitative techniques. A wide range of methodologies and theories are available in different areas of learning that can be put to good use in ethnozoological approaches if the right questions are asked. The challenges to studying ethnozoology in Brazil are not insignificant, and the tendencies described in the present study may aid in defining research strategies that will maintain the quantitative growth observed in the recent years but likewise foster needed qualitative improvements.
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The influence of humic acids derived from earthworm-processed organic wastes on plant growth.

Some effects of humic acids, formed during the breakdown of organic wastes by earthworms (vermicomposting), on plant growth were evaluated. In the first experiment, humic acids were extracted from pig manure vermicompost using the classic alkali/acid fractionation procedure and mixed with a soilless container medium (Metro-Mix 360), to provide a range of 0, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 4,000 mg of humate per kg of dry weight of container medium, and tomato seedlings were grown in the mixtures. In the second experiment, humates extracted from pig manure and food wastes vermicomposts were mixed with vermiculite to provide a range of 0, 50, 125, 250, 500, 1,000, and 4,000 mg of humate per kg of dry weight of the container medium, and cucumber seedlings were grown in the mixtures. Both tomato and cucumber seedlings were watered daily with a solution containing all nutrients required to ensure that any differences in growth responses were not nutrient-mediated. The incorporation of both types of vermicompost-derived humic acids, into either type of soilless plant growth media, increased the growth of tomato and cucumber plants significantly, in terms of plant heights, leaf areas, shoot and root dry weights. Plant growth increased with increasing concentrations of humic acids incorporated into the medium up to a certain proportion, but this differed according to the plant species, the source of the vermicompost, and the nature of the container medium. Plant growth tended to be increased by treatments of the plants with 50-500 mg/kg humic acids, but often decreased significantly when the concentrations of humic acids derived in the container medium exceeded 500-1,000 mg/kg. These growth responses were most probably due to hormone-like activity of humic acids from the vermicomposts or could have been due to plant growth hormones adsorbed onto the humates.

Author and article information

Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil
NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UNITED KINGDOM
Author notes
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Conceived and designed the experiments: MAD. Performed the experiments: MAD AQG. Analyzed the data: MAD AQG RHPS. Wrote the paper: MAD AQG RHPS.
[¤] Current address: Departamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Role: Academic Editor
PLoS One
Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA)
14 April 2015
: 10
: 4
Andrew C Singer (Academic Editor)

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

Figures: 8, Tables: 0, Pages: 19
Self URI (pdf): pone.0123913.pdf
Funding : This study was funded by Instituto Estadual de Florestas de Minas Gerais (; Pró-Reitoria de Pesquisa ( and Pró-Reitoria de Extensão ( of Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (; Ministério Público do Estado de Minas Gerais (; Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (; Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (; Conservação Internacional do Brasil (; Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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The paper describes illegal activity, and ethical restrictions prevent public sharing of data. Data requests may be sent to the corresponding author.
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