February 1, 2023

“Alien” Species of Predatory Hammerhead Worms Identified in Europe and Africa

A number of types of hammerhead flatworms have been explained by scientists, not from specimens from their land of origin, but from specimens obtained from the countries already invaded. The two new species explained in this new paper follow a similar pattern.

The first new species was called Humbertium covidum in reference to the work being completed throughout lockdowns caused by the worldwide pandemic and “as tribute to the victims of COVID-19,” compose the authors. It was found in 2 gardens in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (France) and likewise in Veneto (Italy). It is small (30 mm) and looks consistently metallic black, an uncommon color amongst hammerhead flatworms. Through hereditary analyses of its digestive contents, the researchers found that these flatworms consume little snails. The types origin is probably Asia, and it is potentially invasive.

The second brand-new species was called Diversibipalium mayottensis and was just found in Mayotte (a French island in the Mozambique Channel, Indian Ocean). The species is little (30 mm) and exhibits an incredible green-blue iridescence over brown ground color. Hereditary analyses, including mitogenomes, revealed that this types was the sister-group of all other hammerhead flatworms (subfamily Bipaliinae) and is thus of unique interest for understanding the evolution of these worms. Its origin could be Madagascar, from where it would have been inadvertently given Mayotte by people at some time in the past.

Jean-Lou Justine said “Due to the pandemic, throughout the lockdowns most of us were house, with our laboratory closed. No field expeditions were possible. I encouraged my associates to gather all the details we had about these flatworms, do the computer analyses, and finally write this extremely long paper. We decided to call among the types “covidum,” paying homage to the victims of the pandemic.”.
In addition to classical physiological and morphological descriptions, the researchers utilized the characters of total mitogenomes to identify the new types. Mitochondrial genomes (or mitogenomes) with about 15,000 base pairs, provide a substantial quantity of info, particularly information about their genes. The researchers, who had actually previously studied the mitogenomes in four types of land flatworms, describe here the total mitogenomes of 5 species of hammerhead flatworms. Complete mitogenomes and other series normally used for phylogeny, such as those of Small and Large Subunit Ribosomal RNA (SSU and LSU), enabled the research group to propose the very first molecular study of relationships within the hammerhead flatworms (subfamily Bipaliinae).
Referral: “Hammerhead flatworms (Platyhelminthes, Geoplanidae, Bipaliinae): mitochondrial genomes and description of two brand-new types from France, Italy, and Mayotte” by Jean-Lou Justine, Romain Gastineau, Pierre Gros, Delphine Gey, Enrico Ruzzier, Laurent Charles and Leigh Winsor, 1 February 2022, Peerj.DOI: 10.7717/ peerj.12725.

The research highlights the problem of alien species, and their possible to become invasive. They are one of the major threats to biodiversity, with significant expense influence on the economy. A full range of methods were utilized, consisting of resident science, field explorations, macro photography, classical morphology, and new generation sequencing in molecular biology.
Hammerhead flatworms consist of some “giants” among land flatworms, with one species reaching one meter in length. The brand-new types explained here are little, possibly discussing why they escaped the attention of scientists before.

The second new types was called Diversibipalium mayottensis and was only discovered in Mayotte (a French island in the Mozambique Channel, Indian Ocean). Hereditary analyses, consisting of mitogenomes, revealed that this species was the sister-group of all other hammerhead flatworms (subfamily Bipaliinae) and is therefore of unique interest for understanding the development of these worms. The scientists, who had actually previously studied the mitogenomes in four types of land flatworms, explain here the complete mitogenomes of 5 species of hammerhead flatworms.

Diversibipalium mayottensis, an intrusive types of hammerhead worm discovered in Mayotte. Credit: Laurent Charles.
A worldwide team led by Professor Jean-Lou Justine from ISYEB (Muséum National dHistoire Naturelle, Paris, France) reports the description of 2 new types of hammerhead flatworms. This is the first study of these types, reported in an article released in the Open Access journal PeerJ.
Land flatworms are predators of soil animals, consisting of earthworms, slugs, and snails. When they are introduced in a new environment, they are a hazard to soil biodiversity and ecology. Hammerhead flatworms are specialized members of this household revealing a widened head. A variety of types of hammerhead flatworms have actually been described by scientists, not from specimens from their land of origin, however from specimens gotten from the countries currently got into. This is the case, for example, for the two species discovered in the USA, Bipalium pennsylvanicum and Bipalium adventitium, which stem from Asia however were not reported from any Asian nation. The two new species explained in this new paper follow a comparable pattern.

Humbertium covidum, an invasive hammerhead worm found in Italy. Credit: Pierre Gros
2 new types of potentially intrusive hammerhead flatworms from Europe (France and Italy) and Africa (Mayotte).
” Alien” species of predatory hammerhead worms– including a marvelously rainbowlike green-blue specimen– identified in Europe and Africa.
Among the repercussions of globalization is the unintentional spread of invasive plant and animal species. Land flatworms have actually attacked the entire world, principally via the plant trade. More than 10 species are now extensive, such as Obama nungara (originally from Argentina), Platydemus manokwari (from New Guinea) and Bipalium kewense (from Southeast Asia).

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