An invasive Australian flatworm which threatens native species has been found under a cowpat on Dartmoor.
Invasion of the imported flatworm
Ben Webster, Environment Editor www.thetimes.co.uk
The worm, which may have arrived in an imported pot plant, has been previously found in urban areas in the UK but this is the most rural sighting, suggesting that the species is spreading.
It grows up to 8cm long, has a flattened, shiny pink-orange body and feeds on earthworms, which are essential for soil health.
The Dartmoor worm was discovered near Chagford by a neighbour of Nick Baker, a naturalist and TV presenter who identified it as the non-native species Australoplana sanguinea.
There are more than ten non-native flatworm species in the UK and once introduced they can reproduce rapidly.
Andrew Whitehouse, of the conservation charity Buglife, said that the discovery “indicates that this species is spreading into our countryside where it poses a threat to our native worms”.
“Buglife are calling on the government to ban imports of pot plants, and ensure that our country’s biosecurity is sufficient to protect our wildlife,” he added.
The charity said the Australian worm was not as great a threat as Obama nungara, a South American flatworm that eats snails and earthworms.