Discovery of new marine worm species

Researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History have identified a new species of marine worm living in the Basque region of Spain. Named Faerlea assembli, the worm is just 0.8mm long and was discovered as part of research conducted at Plentzia Marine Station.

The new species belongs to an important group of worms known as the Acoelomorpha. These small, soft-bodied worms are abundant throughout many different types of marine sediment. They form a key part of marine food chains and studying their populations offers a way for scientists to monitor the overall health of different environments. Acoelomorphs are particularly sensitive to human impact and their diversity is reduced in areas such as beaches that are visited by many tourists.

The new species, Faerlea assembli belongs to the Mecynostomidae family of acoelomorphs. This group is most abundant in shallow, sandy sediments, and therefore they are particularly vulnerable to impacts by human activities. It is a fragile species with limited, localized distributions. Professor Ulf Jondelius led the research team that identified the new species.

He said, when it comes to understanding the diversity of marine life, we are still only scratching the surface. Small marine species such as this are often overlooked yet they play crucial roles in marine ecosystems. Identifying new species, such as Faerlea assembli, provides a first step in gathering the data needed for wider population studies to monitor environmental status.

The findings were published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Journal Information: Sarah Atherton et al, Phylogenetic assessment and systematic revision of the acoel family Isodiametridae, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (2021). DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlab050

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