Invasive flatworm Obama nungara identified in OPAL survey

The press have recently reported that an invasive flatworm from Brazil, the Obama nungara, which poses a threat to soil health and wildlife, has made its way to mainland Britain, likely due to the importation of pot plants.

Read the press coverage at the following link:

The OPAL New Zealand Flatworm survey has had three records of Obama nungara submitted in 2016 (identified by UK Flatworm expert, Hugh Jones). These records were all from different geographic areas - near Reading, Tavistock and Newcastle. OPAL Community Scientist, Dr. Annie Robinson, explained that the record from Reading came from a new build property, where the flatworm was found after receiving soil improver from a source possibly in the Midlands.  Like the New Zealand Flatworm Obama nungara, is a predator of earthworms but also predates land snails. 

It has spread in France and Spain and these records add to an increasing number of sightings in the UK. Obama nungara originates from Brazil and it is hoped that its spread may be limited by heavy frosts in the UK. 

Obama nungara

Photos of other invasive flatworm species have been submitted to the OPAL New Zealand Flatworm survey, including numerous records of Australoplana sanguinea (Australian Flatworm), and a few records of Kontika ventrolineata, Caenoplana bicolor.  These records are invaluable and show the merit of a citizen science approach to identifying and tackling the spread of invasive species. Our valued network of Community Scientists, Community Champions and everyone who gets involved in OPAL is incredibly important, the eyes-on-the-ground help to increase our knowledge of the distribution of these non-native species and potentially detect the arrival of other new species.  Hopefully, we won’t see the arrival in the UK of the New Guinea Flatworm which has been recorded in France and has been declared as one of the “100 worst invasive alien species” in the world.

For more information on the OPAL New Zealand Flatworm survey and how to get involved, click here:

If you are out in your garden or local outdoor space have a look under logs, stones or any plastic matting and if you see a flatworm take a picture and send it in to us! If it is a different flatworm species we will be able to forward the record on to the appropriate organisations. The latest distribution map showing the records submitted to the New Zealand Flatworm survey can be seen below. 

The OPAL New Zealand Flatworm survey is co-ordinated by OPAL, University of Aberdeen and James Hutton Institute.