Scientists in South Africa discover 18 new spider, snail and worm species
By David Smith in Johannesburg
Tuesday 18 August 2009
Scientists surveying a nature reserve in South Africa have discovered 18 previously unrecorded species of invertebrates, including spiders, snails, millipedes, earthworms and centipedes.
The trove of creatures was uncovered in eight days by researchers and volunteers working for the environmental charity Earthwatch at the Mkhambathi nature reserve on the spectacular Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape.
However, scientists warned that planned developments in the area could threaten the ecosystem and deny them the chance to identify further species.
Jan Venter, an ecologist working for Eastern Cape Parks, which manages the reserve, said that the 29 square mile area had previously attracted only ad hoc surveys and butterfly collectors.
"To get so many species in one survey shows the importance of the reserve. It's a very special area, conservation-wise. If we do another survey, we'll find just as many." The team suspects that another 18 species might be discovered.