The invasive land planarian Platydemus manokwari (Platyhelminthes, Geoplanidae): records from six new localities, including the first in the USA.
The land planarian Platydemus manokwari de Beauchamp, 1963 or "New Guinea flatworm" is a highly invasive species, mainly in the Pacific area, and recently in Europe (France). We report specimens from six additional countries and territories: New Caledonia (including mainland and two of the Loyalty Islands, Lifou and Maré), Wallis and Futuna Islands, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida, USA. We analysed the COI gene (barcoding) in these specimens with two sets of primers and obtained 909 bp long sequences. In addition, specimens collected in Townsville (Australia) were also sequenced. Two haplotypes of the COI sequence, differing by 3.7%, were detected: the "World haplotype" found in France, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Singapore, Florida and Puerto Rico; and the "Australian haplotype" found in Australia. The only locality with both haplotypes was in the Solomon Islands. The country of origin of Platydemus manokwari is New Guinea, and Australia and the Solomon Islands are the countries closest to New Guinea from which we had specimens. These results suggest that two haplotypes exist in the area of origin of the species, but that only one of the two haplotypes (the "World haplotype") has, through human agency, been widely dispersed. However, since P. manokwari is now recorded from 22 countries in the world and we have genetic information from only 8 of these, with none from New Guinea, this analysis provides only partial knowledge of the genetic structure of the invasive species. Morphological analysis of specimens from both haplotypes has shown some differences in ratio of the genital structures but did not allow us to interpret the haplotypes as different species. The new reports from Florida and Puerto Rico are firsts for the USA, for the American continent, and the Caribbean. P. manokwari is a known threat for endemic terrestrial molluscs and its presence is a matter of concern. While most of the infected territories reported until now were islands, the newly reported presence of the species in mainland US in Florida should be considered a potential major threat to the whole US and even the Americas.