New Flatworm Species Discovered in Cave in Brazil

Posted on January 28, 2015

Photograph of Girardia multidiverticulata flatworm

A new species of flatworm has been discovered living in a cave in Brazil. The flatworm was discovered by Brazilian zoologists Lívia Cordeiro and Rodrigo Borghezan from the University of Sao Paulo (USP). The cave is part of the Bodoquena Plateau in the Cerrado Biome in central Brazil, which contains at least 200 caves with a system of subterranean water resources.

Specimens of the unpigmented and eyeless flatworm species were found in a limestone cave at a depth of 25 meters. A photo of the entrance to this cave is pictured below. The scientists say the flatworm is the first known obligate cave-dwelling planarian of the suborder Continenticola in South America. The flatworm has been named Girardia multidiverticulata.

The scientists say the new flatworm species is easily identified by a unique its reproductive apparatus. This feature is described as a "large bulbar cavity with multiple diverticula." The name of the new species refers to this unique bulbar cavity.

The scientists say there has been a significant increase in the exploration of caves in Brazil. Over 10,000 caves have been documented but the researchers say this may represent just 10% of the total number of caves in Brazil. This means that many undiscovered troglobitic species may remain.

A research paper on the new flatworm species can be found here in the journal ZooKeys.

Entrance to the cave where new flatworm species, Girardia multidiverticulata, was discovered


Photos: Lívia Cordeiro