School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Chapman, C, An investigation of Onychophora (velvet worms) of the Illawarra region, BEnviSci Hons, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, 2018.
Onychophorans are a fascinating phylum of terrestrial invertebrates that form a group with the Arthropoda and Tardigrada known as Panarthropoda (Campbell et al. 2011). Diversity among the Onychophora has been grossly underestimated as their conserved morphology results in the prevalence of cryptic species, whereby two or more species may be grouped under one species name if gross morphology alone has been used as the only means of identification. In recent years, more detailed morphological analyses and the application of molecular analyses has shed more light on diversity among the Onychophora. Within this phylum, two families have been recognised, the Peripatopsidae and Peripatidae, with a lack of any higher taxonomic ranks. The family Peripatopsidae are found in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and New Guinea and currently consists of many monotypic genera. One of these, Anoplokaros, with its single species Anoplokaros keerensis Reid, 1996, was originally suggested to comprise a likely cryptic species-complex (Reid 1996). This hypothesis was tested within this study, employing an integrative taxonomic approach, involving both molecular and morphological analyses. It was revealed that three putative novel species are present within the Illawarra region, that were previously believed to be populations of A. keerensis. Unique morphological characters were observed in most of the populations examined, although these were not necessarily congruent with the mtDNA COI sequences. Morphological descriptions were also prepared for additional specimens that were not included in the phylogenetic analyses that could be used as a baseline to facilitate future revisions of these putative A. keerensis populations.