Giant predatory worms invading France

Flatworms that can grow up to 40cm long pose threat to indigenous earthworm population

Giant predatory worms that could pose a serious threat to the local earthworm population have invaded France

The creatures in question are muscular giant hammerhead flatworms, some of which are brightly-coloured.
The worms, which can reach up to 40cm, have wormed their way into French gardens over the past 20 years from Asia - but the invasion went unnoticed until just five years ago, when an amateur naturalist sent a photograph of an unidentified worm to scientists.

"The present findings strongly suggest that the species present in Metropolitan France and overseas territories should be considered invasive alien species," according to a research document published in the scientific journal PeerJ.

"Our numerous records in the open in Metropolitan France raise questions: as scientists, we were amazed that these long and brightly coloured worms could escape the attention of scientists and authorities in a European developed country for such a long time; improved awareness about land planarians is certainly necessary."

There have been 111 recorded sightingss of the worms since 1999, the study noted, and there are five different species. The worms are considered an "invasive alien species" is that they are able to reproduce asexually and have no known predators.

It is believed they were transported from Asia to France among consignments of tropical plants

The study also notes that two types of flatworm - one black, found in France, and an iridescent blue version found on the island of Mayotte - are probably previously unknown species.

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