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16 July 2008
A carnivorous slug has been identified as an entirely new species by specialists at the University and National Museum Cardiff.
First discovered in a Cardiff garden last year, a member of the public brought the slug to the attention of researchers in the School of Biosciences. Molecular work showed that the slug was genetically very different from its closest relatives which are usually only found in Georgia and Turkey.
One of the most distinguishing features of the subterranean creature is its blade-like teeth, which it uses to kill earthworms at night. The slug is completely white and is capable of squeezing its flexible body into tiny cracks to get to its prey.
Inspired by its nocturnal hunting habits, the scientists studying the slug decided to christen it Selenochlamys ysbryda, or Ghost Slug.
Ben Rowson, a PhD student at the School of Biosciences and a biologist at National Museum Cardiff, said: "The slug’s scientific name partly derives from the Welsh word ‘ysbryd’ meaning ‘ghost’. We think this is the first time that a Welsh word has been used in an animal’s scientific name".
To help monitor the spread of the creature and to ensure that it does not become a pest, an identification guide has been produced by the Museum. Gardeners have been asked to watch out for the slugs and dozens of responses have already been received, leading to the discovery of new slug populations in Caerphilly and Swansea.
Ecologist Dr Bill Symondson, the first researcher to encounter the slug, said: "The Biodiversity and Ecology Research Group at the School of Biosciences specialises in using molecular ecology techniques to identify species. There may well be many other new species out there but they only get recognised when they come into the hands of people with the skills to identify them.
"The discovery of the ghost slug is an excellent example of a successful interaction between academics at Cardiff University and the general public".
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