New Zealand flatworm

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New Zealand flatworm
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Platyhelminthes
Order: Tricladida
Family: Geoplanidae
Genus: Arthurdendyus
A. triangulatus
Binomial name
Arthurdendyus triangulatus
(Dendy, 1896)[1] Jones, 1999 [2]
  • Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy, 1896)
  • Geoplana triangulata Dendy, 1896

The New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus) is a large land flatworm native to New Zealand. It can vary from 5 mm in length when hatched to approximately 17 centimetres (6.7 in) in mature adults.

The New Zealand flatworm is considered an invasive species in parts of Europe. This species is included since 2019 in the list of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern (the Union list).[3] This implies that this species cannot be imported, bred, transported, commercialized, or intentionally released into the environment in the whole of the European Union.[4]


The ventral surface of the flatworm is a pale buff colour while the dorsal surface is dark brown. Young flatworms vary in colour from white to pale orange and develop their adult colouration as they grow.

During the day, flatworms can be found resting on the surface of soil underneath objects in close contact with the ground. They may also be found beneath the soil surface hunting for earthworms.

Reproduction involves the production of egg capsules of about 8 mm in length. The capsules are shiny, flexible and cherry red in colour at first and later darken to black after several days. After an unknown incubation period, several pale, tiny flatworms hatch out of the brittle capsule. One egg capsule is produced at a time with the bulge clearly visible in the dorsum of the adult worm.


When at rest, A. triangulatus rolls itself up and can appear like a very tiny Swiss roll. When it starts to move, it uncurls, at the same time as the circular muscles beneath the epidermal cells at the anterior end contract. The paler head-end extends forward, becoming as thin as the lead in a pencil. During movement it is repeatedly raised a couple of millimetres from the substratum before being lowered again. As movement continues, circular, diagonal and longitudinal muscles in the rest of the body contract. Friction between the ventral surface and the substratum is reduced by mucus produced by the ciliated epidermal cells. A. triangulatus can achieve speeds of up to 17 m per hour.[citation needed]

Invasive species[edit]

The New Zealand flatworm is an invasive species in Europe, feeding there almost exclusively on earthworms.[5][6] This degrades soil quality. European earthworm predators are reluctant to eat it although cases of frogs and beetle larvae consuming flatworms have been recorded. It has been seen in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland and the Faroe Islands. It might have arrived in the early 1960s, being first recorded in Belfast in 1963. The New Zealand flatworm is easily transported accidentally in plant pots in adult or egg form. They tend to be common in garden centres and may have arrived in the UK with exotic plants.

It has been suggested that they might thrive in parts of western Norway, southern Sweden, Denmark, Germany and northern parts of Poland, if they invade these regions.[7]

Similar invasions of other terrestrial planarians are occurring in many other parts of the world.[8] For example, planarians of the genus Bipalium are widely distributed in North America,[9] and planarians of the genus Platydemus on many islands in the Pacific.[10] Platydemus manokwari has recently (2013) been found in Europe.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dendy, 1896 : Notes on New Zealand Land Planarians Part II. Transact New Zealand Inst 28 pp. 210-214. HTML Open access icon
  2. ^ Jones, H. D. (1999). "A new genus and species of terrestrial planarian (Platyhelminthes; Tricladida; Terricola) from Scotland, and an emendation of the genus Artioposthia". Journal of Natural History. 33 (3): 387–394. doi:10.1080/002229399300308. ISSN 0022-2933.
  3. ^ "List of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern - Environment - European Commission". Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  4. ^ "REGULATION (EU) No 1143/2014 of the European parliament and of the council of 22 October 2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species".
  5. ^ Boag, B; K A Evans; G W Yeates; P M Johns & R Nielson (1995). "Assessment of the global potential distribution of the predatory land planarian Artioposthia triangulata (Dendy) (Tricladida: Terricola) from ecoclimatic data" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Zoology. 22 (3): 311–318. doi:10.1080/03014223.1995.9518046. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-03-13.
  6. ^ Jones, H. D. 2005: Identification: British land flatworms. British Wildlife, 16, 189-194. Full text Archived 2013-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Boag, B., Evans, K.A., Neilson, R., Yeates, G.W., Johns, P.M., Mather, J.G., and Christensen, O.M. (1995). The potential spread of terrestrial planarians Artioposthia triangulata and Australoplana sanguinea var. alba to continental Europe. Annals of Applied Biology 127: 385-390.
  8. ^ Ogren, R. E. and M. Kawakatsu. 1998. American Nearctic and Neotropical land planarian (Tricladida: Terricola) faunas. Pedobiologia 42 441-451.
  9. ^ Ducey, P. K., L-J. West, G. Shaw, J. DeLisle. 2005. Reproductive ecology and evolution in the invasive terrestrial planarian Bipalium adventitium across North America. Pedobiologia 49:367-377.
  10. ^ Sugiura, S. 2010. Prey preference and gregarious attacks by the invasive flatworm Platydemus manokwari. Biological Invasions 12:1499-1507.
  11. ^ Justine, Jean-Lou; Winsor, Leigh; Gey, Delphine; Gros, Pierre; Thévenot, Jessica (2014). "The invasive New Guinea flatworm Platydemus manokwari in France, the first record for Europe: time for action is now". PeerJ. 2: e297. doi:10.7717/peerj.297. PMC 3961122. PMID 24688873. Open access icon

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