Velvet worms (Onychophora: Peripatopsidae)

​Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 23 October.

Applicant: University of Kassel, Germany

Species/Taxon: Velvet worms (Onychophora: Peripatopsidae)

Location: Forest patches and Natural Reserves along Tasmania

Title of research: Diversity, Evolution and Conservation of Velvet Worms (Onychophora) in Tasmania, Australia

Aim of project:
The aim of the current project is to study the hitherto unexplored fauna of Tasmanian velvet worms (Onychophora) using modern molecular and morphological techniques. In order to understand the diversity, evolutionary relationships and biogeographical history of these charismatic invertebrates, as well as to contribute for their conservation in the island of Tasmania, we will investigate the collected material using next generation sequencing (NGS) methods, chromosomal analyses and diverse morphological techniques such as scanning electron microscopy, nano- and micro-computed tomography. The generated data will allow reliable species identifications accompanied by robust phylogenetic reconstructions and evolutionary and biogeographical inferences. Finally, these data will create a solid basis for proposing non-arbitrary conservation actions for each individual species identified.

Justification:
-Work on reserved land is required since undescribed species of velvet worms have previously been reported from both protected and unprotected areas.

-Onychophorans are important flagship species for habitat preservation, thus having high impact in conservation studies. Nevertheless, one can only protect what is known or described. Once new Tasmanian species of velvet worms are described, they can be used for justifying habitat preservation or management benefits.

-The Tasmanian fauna of velvet worms remains largely unexplored and this study will help understand the diversity and evolutionary history of onychophorans as whole, as well as speciation processes in insular environment.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: The maximum likely numbers of individuals involved in the project will be 15 specimens per species/locality. No traps are required since the animals will be collected manually from rotten logs, leaf litter and soil crevices. The collecting method together with the low number of specimens required will guarantee a minimal habitat disturbance and will not affect the population dynamics of the target species.

Activities undertaken and methods: Specimens will be removed from each locality for further investigation in the laboratory (scanning electron microscopy, nanon- and microCT, chromosome analyses and molecular phylogenetic analyses).

Fate of animals: Animals will be either kept alive in laboratory cultures in Germany or fixed in ethanol/formalin for further investigations. Type material of new species will be placed in Tasmanian institutions, as previously done.

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Regarding the low number of specimens required, no impact on species involved is expected.

Contact

Scientific Research Permits
Natural Values Conservation Branch
134 Macquarie Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Email: Scientific.Permits@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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