Nematodes are small worms that measure around 1mm in length and live freely in soil or water. They feed on bacteria, single-cell algae, fungi or other nematodes; they can also live as parasites of other animals or plants. But the most striking fact about them is their ability to adapt.
Scientists from the Andalusian Nematology Group at the University of Jaén focused on studying how a type of worm usually associated to damp environments has adapted to life in dry ecosystems in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. This gave rise to the discovery of a new species living only in these extreme environments. The scientists now think they could use it to detect processes of desertification.
The name of the new species was derived from the Latin word hortus, meaning orchard and referring to the habitat of which the species was collected from.
For the experts: A new species of the genus Protorhabditis is described from agricultural areas in the South East of the Iberian Peninsula. Protorhabditis hortulana sp. n. is distinguished by its very small body length (189–222 μm in females), lateral field with two longitudinal wings, lip region rounded with fused lips, stoma 10–13 μm long lacking glottoid apparatus, pharynx with distinctly swollen metacorpus, excretory pore and deirids at basal bulb level, female reproductive system outstretched and spermatheca with self-sperm, vulva slightly postequatorial (V=54–62), female tail conoid (14–19 μm, c= 11.7–17.6, c’= 1.6–2.4) with finely rounded tip, and males unknown. Description, measurements and illustrations, including SEM photographs are provided. A compendium of species of Protorhabditis is also given and illustrated.