Journal archives for July 2016

July 24, 2016

Rediscovery of Spio Aequalis after Missing for Over 50 Years

While wandering around in an area of Otaipango where there is alot of wave action and rocks rising from the floor to create isalnds I came across a "sand tube" that was in a rock pool on the shore side, nestled close to the rock face in the low low intertidal zone I have seen a few of these before but none as large as this tube. Also these tubes were single and not part of a cluster as I usually see them.

Watching as the water ran over it and receeded, I noticed that there seemed to be something waving around in the middle of the tubes, so naturally I had to get photos even though I did not have a clue what this was. Judging the waves and getting the seaweed aside I managed to get a few photos and put them up. First Observation

The ID came back tentatively as spio aequalis with the following comments
I think it might be a Spio aequalis (NZ native). The thick tube chimney, what can be seen of the palps (tentacles) banding, and the very low tide habitat matches, but I don't know of any records from northern NZ.

Spionids are usually quite small but Spio aequalis are big and beautiful, not common, and quite a mystery species for me until I found out where they liked to live - in sand but always with rock nearby, not fully exposed to surf. Sure would be good to confirm that id.

A few days later while in the same area I saw a creatue and even though not knowing what it was, photographed it and put it up. This was the comfirmation that what I had found before was the Spio aequalis. Second Observation

I then googled spio aequalis and found the page Glimpses of the giant spionid Spio aequalis written by Geoff Read who is also the person who did the ID for my obs. Here are some of the points he makes on his page.

  • The beachworm Spio aequalis is a large polychaete unique to New Zealand. However, it has not been seen for fifty years.
  • Spio aequalis Ehlers, 1904 remains an enigmatic polychaete known only from the original discovery by Schauinsland somewhere on the Chatham Islands coast.
  • Two subsequent unpublished South Island sightings have come to light recently
  • The length of time expired since the last observation fits one definition of an extinct animal, and it has yet to be refound, despite resampling attempts at all three of its now known locations.
  • Waitangi (Chatham Island), Moeraki (North of Dunedin), and Squally Bay (Banks Peninsula) are the known localities of Spio aequalis.

Sightings Before My Finds
Hugo Schauinsland of Bremen visited the Chatham Islands during January-February 1897
William Benham collected polychaetes in November 1899 at Moeraki north of Dunedin. Unpublished record.
George Knox did some collecting on Banks Peninsula in 1949 Unpublished record

So we can see that there was the original sighting in 1897, followed in one in 1899 and the last known one in 1949, with both the later two only coming to light recently, but are unpublished.

In 2008 THE polychaete expert of NZ, @readgb rediscovered these in Banks Penninsula - see comments below :)

In 2016 in the real far north at the magical Otaipango - Henderson Bay they have been found. In a different Island and nearly as far away as you can get from the other three sightings. This is why sites like NatureWatch are so valuble as it allows ordinary people the opportunity to photograph and post creatures and interesting things in the hope of getting an ID. And having scientists a part of this community and helping with ID's is also valuble because scientists looking for the spio aequalis would basically only look where there are known sightings and would not think to look here.

Yet because of NW the spio aequalis has been photographed, confirmed, rediscovered and by that more has been added to the knowledge base for this creature that was once lost, but now found again!

Posted on July 24, 2016 00:03 by tangatawhenua tangatawhenua | 2 observations | 8 comments | Leave a comment