A previously unknown invasive parasite that has been accidentally imported from South America is posing a new threat to one of Spain’s most fragile ecosystems, The Local reported.
The flatworm, the name of which, hilariously, sounds the same as the last name of the former US president - Obama nungara - can reach up to 7 cm in length and is known to have hundreds of tiny eyes scattered across the length of its body. However in actual fact, it brings together two Brazilian Tupi words – one for “leaf” (oba) and the other meaning “animal” (ma).
Mapped in the rice paddies of the Parc Natural de L'Albufera in Valencia, the species made its way across the Atlantic into Europe as exotic pot plants were imported from Brazil.
The only danger the Obama flatworms really pose is to local earthworms and land snails – the native earthworm population that renders soil healthy and well aerated, as well as supporting plant growth and reproduction. However, the effect may be more far-reaching, it is believed, as the diminished native population may have adverse influence higher up the food chain and affect birdlife due to their foul taste, which is not much to the birds’ liking.
"Although their impact on local biodiversity may seem minor, since they are generalist predators of terrestrial invertebrates, such as earthworms and native snails, the settlement of a population of these species could have a negative impact on the natural spaces it colonises”, conservationist group SEO/Birdlife argued in a statement.