Sebastian Kvist

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Sebastian Kvist
Born Sweden
Nationality Sweden
Occupation Professor of evolutionary biology
Known for frequently quoted on annelids - exotic worms

Sebastian Kvist is the Royal Ontario Museum's curator of invertebrate zoology, and a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at nearby University of Toronto.[1] He specializes in leech biology.[2]

In 2016 Forbes magazine quoted Kvist when identifying a "mysterious purple orb", found during the deep descent of a research submarine.[3] Kvist said he thought it was a pleurobranch, a soft-bodied marine mollusc.

In 2017, Kvist was one of the scientists who classified Websteroprion Armstrongi, a long marine worm, with a toothed jaw that snapped shut on prey.[4]

In June 2016 a compelling video of an exotic marine worm, rapidly everting a long proboscis, went viral.[5] Kvist was called upon by Earth Touch News to identify the worm, and its behaviour. He identified it as a member of the phylum Nemertea, and said the worm was dying, probably from the stress of being taken out of the water.

In December 2017 Popular Science quoted Kvist on what happens when one is bit by a leech, how to prevent being bit by a leech, how to remove leeches that have bitten you, and the gruesome situation of swallowing a live leech.[6]

In June, 2019, he was called upon to classify 5,000 contraband leech seized from a smuggler.[1]

Kvist earned his undergraduate and Master's degrees at the University of Gothenburg.[7] He earned his PhD in 2012 at the Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History.[8][9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Ontario Man “Leeched” of Money By Court After Trying to Smuggle in Thousands of Leeches". Thunder Bay Newsledger (Toronto). 2019-06-05. Retrieved 2019-10-29. "The leeches were taken into custody and sent to the Royal Ontario Museum where they were identified. According to Sebastian Kvist, curator of invertebrate zoology, the species is identified as Hirudo verbana, one of the only two leeches regulated under wildlife trade. Kvist explains that these leeches have been protected from overharvesting because of their medicinal properties since 1823. However, this species is also considered invasive when brought to new locations." 
  2. James Gorman (2019-10-28). "Meet the Bloodsuckers: Vampires get all the attention at this time of year, but bloodthirsty leeches, insects and birds are just as compelling — and they’re real". The New York Times: p. D1. Retrieved 2019-10-29. "And if you keep them as pets and you forget to buy leech food — Dr. Kvist buys cattle blood and sausage casing from the butcher, and makes tasty little blood balloons — you can always feed them your own blood. Dr. Kvist does so, on occasion, as do other leechologists." 
  3. Shaena Montanari (2016-07-30). "Scientists Discover Perplexing Purple Orb At The Bottom Of The Sea". Forbes magazine. Retrieved 2019-10-29. 
  4. Nicole Mortillaro (2017-02-24). "New species of gigantic, toothy worm identified in Canadian fossil collection". CBC News. Retrieved 2019-10-29. 
  5. Sarah Keartes (2017-06-06). "The sad facts behind that 'multiplying' ribbon worm video". Earth Touch News. Retrieved 2019-10-29. "We checked in with Kvist about this more recent encounter, and he confirmed that the ribbon worm in the video was in very bad shape. 'My best guess is that the worm is dying and that's why it's breaking apart,' he explained." 
  6. Kate Baggaley (2017-12-13). "So you’ve been bitten by a leech. What’s the worst that could happen?". Popular Science. Retrieved 2019-10-29. "And according to Kvist, this is no accident. When a leech does invade a person’s body, it usually belongs to the Praobdellidae family. These leeches are known for feeding through mucous membranes. In other words: they want to be inside you. 'The rest of the skin is much more unappealing to them,' Kvist says, 'although they probably would feed on your leg, if they were starved.'" 
  7. "Sebastian Kvist: Assistant Professor". University of Toronto. Retrieved 2019-10-29. "I am an evolutionary biologist, interested in the forces that shape biodiversity and that drive evolution. My research focuses mainly on tackling questions regarding the diversity, phylogeny and distributions of representatives of Annelida, a rather large animal phylum with over 17,000 currently recognized species." 
  8. Tamar Lewin (2011-07-22). "The Critter People". The New York Times: p. ED22. Retrieved 2019-10-29. "'In most university biology departments, they want graduate students to teach the big introductory premed classes,' says Sebastian Kvist, a third-year student from Sweden whose study of leeches has taken him to Mexico, Canada and New Jersey. 'Here,' he says, 'there are a lot of choices.'" 
  9. Mary Beth Griggs (2011-05-04). "Leech Eggs Need Love, Too". Live Science magazine. Retrieved 2019-10-29. "Kvist and Oceguera-Figueroa's research was funded by a Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant for the study of North American fauna through the Museum's Richard Gilder Graduate School and was recently published in American Museum Novitates, a peer-reviewed scientific journal at the Museum."