Naturalists in the United Kingdom have discovered a species of worm with as many as sixty individual eyes. This peculiar creature was discovered under a rock lying about Shepreth L-Moor in the English county of Cambridgeshire by Brian Eversham, the chief executive of the county’s wildlife trust. The flatworm is about 1.2 centimetres in length and was found in amongst the wet hollows and chalky outlays which characterise the moor. This tiny squat animal is a mottled brown colour and resembles a cross between a slug and an ornate beer bottle/glass sculpture.
This entirely new species, which has yet to be given a formal name in either English or Latin, is one of the most exciting discoveries to made in British wetland environments in many years. Some scientists, unsure of the creature’s status or origins, have claimed that it may be an outsider species accidentally brought in from Australia with imported horticultural products, but it is now accepted that the new flatworm may be a relative of another multiple-eyed worm, Kontikia Andersoni, which lives in Northern Ireland. The biologist Dr. Hugh Jones, working with the Natural History Museum in London, announced that the Cambridgeshire invertebrate is a “completely new, undescribed species“.
Jones, in an interview with the Daily Mail, mentioned additionally the discovery of a similar worm in marshland in the Netherlands, but scientists will have to conduct more studies and DNA tests to determine if the Shepreth and Dutch flatworms are one and the same species.
Mr. Eversham stumbled across the 60-eyed beast while walking and taking photos for a project. “‘I was taking wildlife pictures one Sunday morning and turned over a log to reveal this rather cute flatworm“. It seems that the discovery was a very lucky one as he stated that it is rare to find new species of British wildlife. The local scientific community are very rigorous in documenting wildlife populations, so newly-found animals are rarely uncovered. Commentators, especially from outside the natural science field, however are questioning the significance of Dr. Evesham’s discovery, claiming the flatworm is either an invasive species from the Antipodes or a misidentified slug. Readers of the Daily Mail website have, however enthusiastically proposed new names for the worm, whose many eyes are too small to be seen clearly with the naked human eye. George, from the Netherlands, suggested it be named for the Argus Panoptes, a Greek mythological giant who bore a hundred eyes. A less classically inspired, but hilarious suggestion came from a reader, LGM101, who offered up the Latin species name “Kontikia Speksaverus” after the high street opticians, Specsavers.
Flatworms are soft-bodied invertebrates commonly found in leaf litter and even underwater. About half of all species are parasitic and cause harm to humans and other animals. Their prey of choice are usually snails and other types of worms. The United Kingdom has 29 species of terrestrial flatworms, most of which live submerged in freshwater. Only 2-3 of these species are native to the British Isles, and flatworms are generally difficult to find even in their normal habitat.
SOURCES: Metro.co.uk, The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, Wikipedia, Daily Mail and WBRC.org.uk.