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DNA testing of New Zealand flatworms

Photograph of a New Zealand flatworm
It is the first time there has been such an extensive study of this kind of the alien flatworms found in Scotland.

An alien invader which threatens the ecological balance of Scotland’s soils is being DNA profiled by scientists at The James Hutton Institute. Arthurdendyus triangulatus commonly known as the New Zealand flatworm is a predator of the earthworms that help keep soil in good condition and since it was first recorded in Scotland in the 1960s it has spread to all areas of the country.

Scientists at The James Hutton Institute in Dundee have tracked the spread of the New Zealand flatworm for the past 20 years by surveying and thanks to gardeners reporting sightings and sending in samples. Now they are hoping to DNA profile the samples to ascertain if they have the same origin.

“We have flatworm samples from over 100 locations all over Scotland, from Shetland to the Borders, and samples from their native habitat in New Zealand that we are going to be profiling,” said Dr Roy Neilson, a soil scientist at the Institute. “It is the first time there has been such an extensive study of this kind of the alien flatworms found in Scotland and we are hoping to discover more about their origin and if flatworms now resident in Scotland for over 40 years are adapting genetically to our conditions.”

The New Zealand flatworm is usually found in domestic gardens and gardeners are invited to report sightings (date, number of flatworms and location) during the summer months. In the winter months live samples of flatworm can also be posted to the Institute in a sealed plastic container (for example an old-style photo film canister) along with the reporting information.

Samples should be marked for the attention of Dr Brian Boag, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA and sightings can also be reported to the same address or by email to

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Printed from /news/dna-testing-new-zealand-flatworms on 22/10/21 09:20:46 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.