Estonian soil is surprisingly rich in species

November 1, 2018, Estonian Research Council
L. curtipes. Credit: Estonian University of Life Sciences

Due to its biodiversity and theoretically huge number of taxa waiting to be discovered, soil fauna has been called the poor man's rain forest. If a researcher cannot head to the tropics but wishes to discover something new, they can take a shovel and start digging in the home forest or meadow.

Led by scholars from Estonian University of Life Sciences, a bibliography of faunistic studies on the biodiversity of Estonian Myriapoda was compiled and a related research article was published in the zoosystematics journal ZooKeys. The article analyses the biodiversity of Myriapoda and their habitat preferences in Estonia. The study is a result of collaboration between the Chair of Biodiversity and Nature Tourism at Estonian University of Life Sciences and Tartu College of Tallinn University of Technology.

"A significant part of the surrounding is invisible to the naked eye and concentrated into the soil, which is habitat for various mites, springtails, myriapods, nematodes, annelids and various other groups of animals," said doctoral student and junior researcher Kaarel Sammet, the leading author of the research paper. He added that most animals in the soil are quite small, which is why studying them requires good microscopes and experience.

Taxonomically, the subphylum Myriapoda belongs to the phylum Arthropoda and they can be both herbivores and saprophages (millipedes, pauropods and symphylans) or predators (centipedes).

In the course of about 10 years, samples from 300 localities were collected all over Estonia. From the recent material and older material from zoological collections, more than 5700 individuals were analysed. Data from previous publications were critically summarised as well, Sammet said. "A total of 52 species of Myriapoda were found in Estonia and 13 species of them for the first time. Six species were found to be at their range limits."

When comparing earlier data with the new ones, changes in habitat or occurrence of several species could be noticed and at least one has been introduced by humans, concluded Sammet.

Explore further: New 'scaly' snails species group following striking discoveries from Malaysian Borneo

More information: Kaarel Sammet et al, A synopsis of Estonian myriapod fauna (Myriapoda: Chilopoda, Diplopoda, Symphyla and Pauropoda), ZooKeys (2018). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.793.28050

Related Stories

Animals and fungi enhance the performance of forests

August 2, 2018

A new study shows that in addition to the diversity of tree species, the variety of animal and fungus species also has a decisive influence on the performance of forests. Besides timber production, forest performance contributes ...

Recommended for you

Poxvirus hijacks cell movement to spread infection

November 12, 2018

Vaccinia virus, a poxvirus closely related to smallpox and monkeypox, tricks cells it has infected into activating their own cell movement mechanism to rapidly spread the virus in cells and mice, according to a new UCL-led ...

Researchers discover genes that give vegetables their shape

November 12, 2018

From elongated oblongs to near-perfect spheres, vegetables come in almost every size and shape. But what differentiates a fingerling potato from a russet or a Roma tomato from a beefsteak? Researchers at the University of ...

Warming hurting shellfish, aiding predators, ruining habitat

November 11, 2018

Valuable species of shellfish have become harder to find on the East Coast because of degraded habitat caused by a warming environment, according to a pair of scientists that sought to find out whether environmental factors ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.