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Escargot may go way of the dodo

GASTROPOD ENEMY NO. 1: A New Guinea flatworm, aka Platydemus manokwari, devouring a snail. A PeerJ article reported the discovery of the invasive species - which could pose a threat to snails and earthworms - in Europe.


    Mar 06, 2014

    Escargot may go way of the dodo


    SNAILS, one of France's signature dishes, could be off the menu if the country fails to stem an invasion by a slimy worm from South-east Asia, scientists warned.

    The alert is being sounded over a voracious species called the New Guinea flatworm.

    It is already on a list of the 100 most dangerous invasive species in the world, as it has a relentless appetite for native snails and earthworms in places where it has been introduced.

    Workers at a botanical garden in Caen, Normandy, called in scientific help after they spotted a strange, dark, flat-as-a-pancake worm among their greenhouse plants.

    Reporting in the journal PeerJ on Tuesday, a team of French experts said DNA tests had confirmed their worst fears: Platydemus manokwari has arrived in Europe.

    "This species is extraordinarily invasive," said Professor Jean-Lou Justine of the National Museum of Natural History. "I really hope it can be stopped at the earliest stages."

    He added: "All snails in Europe could be wiped out. It may seem ironic, but it's worth pointing out the effect that this will have on French cooking."

    P. manokwari measures about 5cm long by 5mm wide.

    The back is black olive in colour, with a pale white belly where its mouth is located. The head is elongated, with two prominent black eyes.

    It has been introduced, sometimes deliberately, in more than 15 countries and territories in the Pacific.

    Biologists are alarmed by its appetite for snail.

    The worm can even pursue gastropods up tree trunks - and, when supplies of snails run out, it can tuck into other soil species, including earthworms.