Thursday, 20 October 2016

New nematode is hermaphrodite: One of the smallest known earthworms found in Jaén

Date: October 13, 2016
Source: Plataforma SINC

Around nine kilometres south of the city of Jaén (Spain), Spanish scientists have found a new species of nematode in the compost at a vegetable garden. The specimens found are extremely small, with adults measuring 0.2 mm in length. Moreover, there are no males among these roundworms, making the new nematodes a rare hermaphrodite species.

Nematodes are small worms that measure around 1 millimetre long and live freely in soil or water. They feed on bacteria, single-cell algae, fungi or other nematodes; they can also parasitise other animals or plants. But the most striking fact about them is their ability to adapt.

Scientists from the Andalusian Nematology Group at the University of Jaén focused on studying how a type of worm usually associated to damp environments has adapted to live in the dry ecosystems in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. This gave rise to the discovery of new species exclusive to extreme environments, which scientists could use to detect processes of desertification.

This is the case with Protorhabditis hortulana, a new species of nematode found in a vegetable garden nine kilometres south of Jaén, in a region known as Puente de la Sierra.
"We studied the nematofauna in a compost heap used to fertilise the plot and realised that it contained some very small nematodes," says Joaquín Abolafia of the department of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology of the University of Jaén, and the lead author of the study, published in the journal Zootaxa.

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