Menu
All about forests, rivers, oceans
Australia orders Japanese whalers to stay away
Esther Woolfson's urban nature diary
Ladbrokes is gambling with fish extinction and so is the government
US wildlife officials propose endangered status for wolverines
The hare's death-scream tells of a history soon over
The ethics of keeping a killer cat
It's as if the landscape and stream are caught amid their own owl dreams
Many more seabirds may be affected by Channel pollution, RSPB says
Leading paper firm pledges to halt Indonesian deforestation
Fishing campaigners urge MEPs to vote for discards reform
Dog attack law to be extended to cover incidents on private property
The return of grey wolves 'not enough to restore Yellowstone's ecosystem'
Oil additive polymer PIB may be responsible for seabird deaths
MEPs vote to ban discards in historic reform of fishing policy
All dogs in England to be microchipped by 2016
Some of nature's mysteries are all the better for going unsolved
First the internet, now Monopoly cats have got our attention
Polar bears 'may need to be fed by humans to survive'
Invasive mussel poses ecological and economic threat to island community
Ancestor of humans and other mammals was small furry insect eater
Conflict in DRC Congo threatens chimpanzee tourism programme
The intruder, a raven, passed through the treetops into view
The horsemeat scandal: could there be much more to come?
Circuses remove last of the big cats from UK's big tops
  New to nature No 99: Phagocata flamenca
Planarians are freshwater flatworms of the order Tricladida, scavengers and predators on other invertebrates, hermaphroditic, and capable of both sexual and asexual reproduction. They are distinguished from other flatworms by their trifurcate digestive tract and ovaries positioned in front of the brain. Familiar laboratory animals noted for their regenerative properties, they can be cut in half transversely with both head and tail halves developing into new whole worms, or split at the front to induce the development of two complete heads. Geneticists have recently identified key genes responsible for regeneration of the intestines with the hope of new insights into possible internal organ regeneration. And planarians caused quite a sensation in the 1960s when those conditioned to flashes of light and a simple maze retained the "memory" in regenerated worms and passed memory to other worms when eaten. While planarians remain fascinating laboratory subjects, much remains to be learned about their diversity in the wild.

A newly discovered species, Phagocata flamenca, is a case in point. It was found in large numbers in Granada, Spain, in the well of an artificial spring fed by irrigation channels. The species is unusual, immediately recognisable, and memorably named. Its undulating lateral margins are approached only in one other freshwater planarian, Phagocata undulata from Lake Ohrid on the border of Macedonia and Albania. The latter species shares the wave-like folds along the margin but also has a bordering row of short, cone-shaped papillae absent in the new species. The flowing lateral lines of P flamenca reminded the authors of the ruffles on the dresses worn by flamenco dancers appropriately, coming from the region of Andalucía,home of the art form.

The species was described by Dr Miquel Vila Farré of the Universitat de Barcelona in collaboration with three colleagues from the University of Amsterdam, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, and the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid. The team conducted the most extensive inventory of freshwater planarians in the Iberian peninsula to date, describing six new species from Spain and assessing the status and distributions of five others. Their study reinforced the established view that lake species common elsewhere in Europe are indeed rare in Spain, adding periodic flooding and drought to previously offered explanations for their absence. Their work casts doubt on earlier records of three lake species in Spain and Portugal that were identified by external morphology alone and did not show up in new sampling. They did reveal the presence of a surprisingly diverse planarian stream fauna in the peninsula. In addition, their paper names two new species from Greece where the planarian fauna is similarly poorly studied.
In the British countryside, alien species are not always undesirables
Pandas keep Scotland guessing over mating game
US plan to control Guam's snake population with toxic mice angers Peta
African lions the killer kings in mortal danger from man and sham medicine
EU fish discards deal welcomed by UK
Pilot badger culls set to go ahead
Scientist calls Hugh's Fish Fight 'a tawdry piece of hack journalism'
A couple of interesting visitors have arrived at the lakes in the past week
Sea Shepherd conservation group declared 'pirates' in US court ruling
Schmallenberg virus found in farm animals in almost all of Britain
Gardens: wildlife surveys
Tackling the illegal trade in wild animals is a matter of global urgency
100 million sharks killed each year, say scientists
The snipe's 'drumming' sound is perfectly evocative of Welsh hill country
Sharks at risk of extinction from overfishing, say scientists
Thailand's prime minister pledges to outlaw domestic ivory trade
Humans are not the only animals to enjoy alcohol
China must send a clear message to consumers on ivory trade
Google shopping adverts fuel ivory trade, conservation group warns
Two-thirds of forest elephants killed by ivory poachers in past decade
US and Russia unite in bid to strengthen protection for polar bear
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Above the loch, the scene was dominated by the abundant birch trees
Lion kills intern at California animal sanctuary
Bid to halt polar bear trade fails
Deer culling on massive scale backed by expert
Scores on the paws: how one man changed the shape of dogs to come
Cites: bid to curb sale of ivory and rhino horn voted down
Menu
Geoffrey Matthews obituary
World's largest captive crocodile dies in Philippines
Urban foxes: the facts and the fiction
Albatross astonishes scientists by producing chick at age of 62
Knut the polar bear lifesize model to go on show in Berlin
Horsemeat scandal: Owner of Yorkshire abattoir denies wrongdoing
Foxes' friends and foes say an urban cull is not the answer
Golfer pierces leg with tee to remove spider venom then finishes round
Chinese appetite for shark fin soup devastating Mozambique coastline
A peregrine stands on one foot and imperiously looks out from her ledge
Action on dangerous dogs has been 'woefully inadequate', MPs warn
Why Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Fish Fight is still necessary
What the horsemeat scandal and fish quotas tell us about Europe
New to nature No 99: Phagocata flamenca
We can overlook the aesthetics of gulls, but they make grey beautiful again
Birdwatch: Stonechat
Environment Pollution Pollution that killed seabirds cannot be traced, rules investigation
Communities of voices the link between birdsong and spoken language
Bid to solve mystery of 50,000 red-breasted geese lost in migration
How a ferret took me on a journey to a saner world
Panda eyes focused as Yang Guang and Tian Tian seek each other out
So entrancing are the clouds that the deer are unnoticed until I shift my gaze
Anyone for camelcino? Camel milk set to be big business for east Africa
Red squirrel finds pine marten a fearsome ally in its fight for survival