South Africa discovers 18 new invertebrate species

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In another exciting breakthrough discovery in South Africa, scientists have found 18 new invertebrate species in the Mkhambathi Nature Reserve on the Wild Coast in the country's Eastern Cape Province.

The 18 previously undocumented spiders including worms, snails, centipedes and millipedes were unearthed by a group of South African scientists and volunteers from the Earthwatch organization, working over an eight-day period.

The 18 species, found along with the new creatures are currently being examined and described in research facilities around the country.

This finding once again highlights the unique biodiversity found in South Africa, as well as the natural importance of this particular area.

However, as it has been the case over the years, plans for infrastructure and mining developments could upset the ecology of the Wild Coast and deny scientists any further chance of finding more new species.

Furthermore, the ongoing pressure to develop tourism in the area may also pose a threat.

Eastern Cape Parks ecologist Jan Venter told Xinhua News Agency on Saturday that the area is very special in conservation terms, and that if another survey were to be done, just as many new species would be found.

Invertebrate specialist Dr Michelle Hamer, a senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and supervisor of a number of Earthwatch projects in South Africa, agreed with him, saying these discoveries are important because they show that a lot still needs to be discovered about the country's biodiversity.

The external threats posed by urban development might well have caused the newly discovered species to disappear before scientists had even laid eyes on them, Hamer added.

Understanding the area in terms of its importance to the invertebrate world could be a key factor in getting support for the protection of the reserve.

While new species have been discovered on other expeditions, this one has yielded a particularly rich bounty. Many of the species collected seem to be unique to a small area in or around Mkhambathi.

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