(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists from Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia, South Africa and the United States discovered unusual giant slugs while exploring the Tara Canyon, Europe‘s deepest gorge, on inflatable rafts.
Brownish-gray slugs with a sharp crest along the back and up to 20 cm long hid under rocky ledges in the narrowest part of the canyon and at first seemed like a local ash-black keeled slug (Limax cinereoniger).
The scientists had to use a portable DNA lab to find out that there is a 10% difference between the two species of slug in the so-called DNA barcode.
Moreover, when they opened several of them, they also found differences in the reproductive organs. This was enough to decide on the discovery of a new species, called Limax pseudocinereoniger, to indicate its similarity to L. cinereoniger.
The expedition was organized by Taxon Expeditions, which promotes the involvement of the general public in order to make scientific discoveries.
Rik de Vries, an Amsterdam-based web editor and illustrator who found the first specimen of L. pseudocinereoniger, said: “It’s an incredibly exciting experience to hold an animal that is still unknown to science in your hands.”
Zoologist Iva Nyunich, who took part in the expedition, believes that more unknown species may be hiding in the Tara Canyon and in the Durmitor National Park, of which it is a part. “Using a combination of DNA analysis and anatomy is likely to identify more species that are superficially identical but actually different,” she said.
In 2023, Taxon Expeditions plans to send a new team of citizen scientists to Montenegro on a mission to discover new species and document hidden biodiversity.
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