First molecular barcoding and record of the Indo-Pacific punctuated flatworm Maritigrella fuscopunctata (Newman & Cannon 2000), (Polycladida: Euryleptidae) from the Mediterranean Sea
Adriana Vella, Noel Vella, Mathilde Maslin, Linda Bichlmaier
Conservation Biology Research Group, Department of Biology, University of Malta, Msida MSD2080, MALTA
A first record of the punctuated flatworm Maritigrella fuscopunctata (Newman & Cannon 2000) from Maltese waters in the Mediterranean Sea during marine research surveys in summer 2015 is reported in detail. This platyhelminth species is alien to the Mediterranean, as it is native to the Indo-Pacific region. The abundance of this non-indigenous flatworm was observed to be highest in Exiles Bay followed by Spinola Bay (St. Julians) and St. George’s Bay with a few others found elsewhere along the North eastern coast of Malta between the Valletta Harbour and St. George’s Bay. A sample of these specimens observed were photographed and measured (n=40). A few (n=5) were collected to undertake a first molecular barcode for this euryleptid flatworm. Total body length of the specimens observed in the field varied from 20 to 60 mm. Observations in the field indicate that a growing population has been established especially in the presence of the colonial ascidian Ecteinascidia turbinata, found among the various fouling organisms. Molecular genetics of euryleptid flatworm species is still scarce and was missing for this species. The present study also contributed toward filling this gap.
Keywords: Maritigrella fuscopunctata, alien species, DNA barcoding, Mediterranean, Malta