Salford student discovers new species of parasite

Tuesday 18 December 2012
Notocotylus malhamensis
A postgraduate student from the University of Salford has discovered a new species of parasite which infects voles.

Kellyanne Boyce was studying the parasites affecting rodents in the complex ecosystem of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales when she found a parasite which could not be identified using traditional guides and papers.

Following the collection of a large number of samples, careful measurement of the parasites, characterisation using DNA-based forensic techniques and an exhaustive search of the scientific literature, Kellyanne was able to prove she had discovered a new species.

The parasite has been named Notocotylus malhamensis and preserved type specimens are housed at the University and the Natural History Museum in London. Its DNA has also been stored on international databases.

Professor Geoff Hide of the School of Environment & Life Sciences said: “We have recorded knowledge of around 1 million species on the planet, but there are probably 9 million more in existence. Kellyanne’s discovery shows that it is possible to discover a new species in our local environment, despite our detailed knowledge of its biodiversity.

“This is a unique experience for Kellyanne - very few biologists can claim to have discovered a new species in their careers!”

Kellyanne said: “‘I was really excited when I discovered that I had found a new species. It’s amazing to think that my PhD has added a new species to our catalogue of the natural world and that my name will be associated with it in future scientific literature.''

The first detailed description of the new species and its life cycle was published in the scientific journal Parasitology in October 2012.

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