A flatworm discovered in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques threatens gardens


A new species of flatworm has just been described. Discovered in the Pyrenees Atlantiques, with the help of individualstakes about ten the number of species of terrestrial platyhelminthes introduced in France. And it’s not over!

Humbertium covidum it is not the name of a new variant of SARS-COV-2 but of a new species of introduced terrestrial platyhelminth. That is to say, one of those flatworms that have been colonizing our gardens for more than a decade, without anyone really being moved before 2014 and the first publications of the team of Jean-Lou Justine, professor of zoology at the MNHN. ” This highlights an unexpected blind spot for scientists and authorities in the face of what must be called an invasion. “, regrets the interested party.

The Gardener’s Persistence

While scientists are not (yet) making an effort to study these invasive predators, more and more gardeners are concerned about their presence. “JI get an email report every day, all species combined, with peaks after each of my media appearances. celebrates Jean-Lou Justine, who has launched a dedicated personal website. The method is time consuming, but it is profitable!

Thanks to participatory science, that is, to the people who help us by sending us photos, videos, even specimens discovered in their gardens, we have just described a new species named Humbertium covidum “.

Valuable information

The information collected through the reports is valuable. Of the seven French* specimens used to describe this new species, two were found several years apart in the garden of a Billère resident (64). ” This is a very important indication for us, because it means that an individual probably came from Asia in a pot, managed to reproduce and spend the winter. “. It is true that winter is especially mild in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, which makes it a ” paradise for flatworms “.

These flatworms are a threat to invaded ecosystems, since they feed on gastropods (snails, slugs) or earthworms, essential architects of the soil. PHOTO Pierre Gros.

welcome new reports

You had to have good eyes to seea beast, small, black and presumably nocturnal “And it will probably take a magnifying glass to find their offspring!” I would like to receive photos of egg laying cocoons the zoologist dreams aloud. Concealed under a wooden board or overturned tile, each bud may appear as a red ball, then turn black, not exceeding 3mm. ” I would also like to receive reports from other departments, because I’m sure there are some in other places… »

Chronicle of an invasion foretold

For now, Humbert C. it is officially present in two towns in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques separated by a hundred kilometers, but it probably won’t stop there. Because a recent modeling on the risk of platyhelminth invasion as a function of climatic factors reveals that ” it is likely that each of the five species studied find favorable climatic zones for their survival ” in France. two species (Bipalium kewense and Diversibipalium multilineatum) are already present, to which this newcomer joins.

Humbertium covidum is therefore one more example of an introduced exotic species, which ultimately threatens biodiversity, underlines Jean-Lou Justine. Hopefully, unlike the virus that gave it its name, it won’t take over the world.. All the more reason to be vigilant in order to stop its expansion, if it is still possible.

Alejandrina Civard-Racinais

* About twenty specimens from Italy where this flatworm had already been seen in 2019 were also used to describe its morphology and anatomy.

identity card

  • Last name : Humbertium covidum
  • Family: Bipaline or “hammerhead worms”
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Size: 2 centimeters
  • Reproduction: sexual
  • Special feature: black body like “liquid metal”

To read about the same topic. :

Giant worms colonize the Arcachon basin, the Landes and the Basque Country

To have : “The land flatworms, new invaders of our gardens”, conference by Jean-Lou Justine.



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