HomePLANTS & ANIMALSECOLOGYTwo new species of invasive hammerhead flatworms found in Europe and Africa

Two new species of invasive hammerhead flatworms found in Europe and Africa

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Professor Jean-Lou Justine from ISYEB has reported the description of two new species of hammerhead flatworms. The study has been published in Open Access journal PeerJ.

Land flatworms are predators of soil animals like earthworms, slugs, and snails. When they are introduced to a new environment, they are a threat to soil biodiversity and ecology. Hammerhead flatworms are members of the family of broadened head. Scientists described a number of species of hammerhead flatworms. They described it from specimens from their land of origin. The two species found in USA are Bipalium pennsylvanicum and Bipalium adventitium. These originated from Asia but were not reported from any Asian country. The two specimens follow a similar pattern.

The study highlighted the problem of alien species and their potential to become invasive. They are major threat to biodiversity. Scientists used citizen science, field expeditions, macro photography, classical morphology and new generation sequencing in molecular biology.

Diversibipalium mayottensis, an invasive species of hammerhead worm found in Mayotte
Diversibipalium mayottensis, an invasive species of hammerhead worm found in Mayotte. Credit: Laurent Charles

Hammerhead flatworms include some “giants” among land flatworms. The new species are small. This explains why they escaped the attention of researchers before.

The first new species was named Humbertium covidum. t was found in two gardens in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It is small and looks uniformly metallic black. Researchers found that these flatworms consume small snails. The second new species was named Diversibipalium mayottensis. It was found in Mayotte.

The species is small and have a spectacular green-blue iridescence over brown ground colour. Mitogenomes showed that this species was the sister-group of all other hammerhead flatworms. Its origin could be Madagascar. It would have been inadvertently brought to Mayotte by people at some time in the past.

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