06 Nov 2013

Tiny mollusc unearthed in Chile after 72 years

Calloplax vivipara observation

Calloplax vivipara observation

A local wildlife expert in Chile, Dr Moisés Aguilera, has found a tiny mollusc called a chiton that has not been recorded for 72 years. The discovery occurred during a field trip to launch The Open University’s global iSpot website in Chile. iSpot is a crowd-learning website that helps people identify flora and fauna, and it already has over 30,000 expert and amateur wildlife enthusiasts as part of its community.

The Chilean discovery is an endemic species named Calloplax vivipara, and is unique among chitons in giving birth to live young. Commenting on his find Dr Aguilera, who is an expert in Intertidal Ecology at the Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), said: “It was exciting because this is a very rare species, the only ovoviviparous* chiton in the world and it seems to have a constrained distributional range which is not yet determined. The finding could be of global significance since populations of this species are expected to be very sensitive to local extinction. This finding will stimulate future scientific studies on these populations.”

OU Professor of Ecology and Director of iSpot, Jonathan Silvertown led the field trip on which a group of biodiversity students and scientists recorded local flora and fauna and shared this with the iSpot community. He said: ““What an amazing start to our presence in Chile; it was wonderful to share this early observation with the iSpot community. So much was achieved on the field trip – in just a few days two students recorded 86 species on the university campus and over 400 observations were made during the week. Highlights included dolphins, sea otters, sealions, seabirds and endemic cacti and most of these now have names validated through iSpot’s unique identification system.”

iSpot was launched in June 2009 and aims to help anyone identify anything in nature. Earlier this year it captured its 300,000th observation. Previous significant identifications on iSpot include a six year-old girl who discovered the Euonymus leaf notcher moth, which was quickly identified by iSpot experts as the first of its kind ever seen in Europe. Another amateur naturalist discovered a species of bee-fly not seen in Britain before.

iSpot has already extended its presence internationally with a community in South Africa. More communities are now expected to sign up to the new global site at

Notes to Editors:
*ovoviviparous definition: (of an animal) producing young by means of eggs which are hatched within the body of the parent, as in some snakes.

iSpot is an Open University award-winning website aimed at helping anyone identify anything in nature. Once you've registered, you can add an observation to the website and suggest an identification yourself, or see if anyone else can identify it for you.

iSpot is supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation, the British Ecological Society and is part of The OpenScience Laboratory, an initiative of The Open University and The Wolfson Foundation. Some of our work in the UK is also funded by the British Ecological Society and the Ernest Cook Trust.

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