Omicron African worm spreads faster than sister species

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Omicron is spreading the fastest in Africa A version of the African worm species called Omicron is on the move across the continent more quickly than the significantly…

Omicron African worm spreads faster than sister species

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Omicron is spreading the fastest in Africa

A version of the African worm species called Omicron is on the move across the continent more quickly than the significantly longer species commonly known as Delta.

Scientists have analysed data from more than 5,000 poached field surveys of the worm and found the Omicron species had spread more widely in southern Africa.

The research shows the speed with which it was spreading.

Scientists also recorded the earliest point in time that it appears to have appeared in southern Africa.

Omicron has recently gone on the move elsewhere in Africa as well.

A new study reports that Omicron, also known as Oicoff, was spotted in Chad in late 2016, 200km (125 miles) north of its previous known range in northern Chad.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Delta, the longer-lived African worm, is affected by disease and is less well known.

This is the first time it has been seen outside southern Africa in the last 20 years.

In central and western Africa, the Oicofs has spread to several central locations and also reaches the Atlantic coast of Sierra Leone.

The brief nature of the spread suggests that the species was driven to move out of its usual range by a few known factors such as disease and environmental change.

The team of scientists from Southern University of Science and Technology and universities in Cameroon, Cape Town and Paris-Sud were surprised to find that the worm was moving so quickly.

They made their discovery in a much larger study published in the journal Nature on Thursday.

“Oicofs has now been encountered in two of Africa’s major export producing provinces, and they’ve only been sighted in a few locations as far north as Chad,” said Professor Hugo Lopez, from the Fisheries & Marine Centre at France’s SALSMAC, and an author of the study.

“This indicates they’re diversifying from a structure of naturally occurring populations in the south-eastern region of the continent.”

To make sure their conclusions were accurate, the researchers used a technique called “biorescopic sampling” to compare point of origin data from individual samples across different regions.

“We systematically compared it to data from a different cohort and collected much more data than in the past.

“We got from 1,719 specimens (of the genus) from 19 provinces in 13 countries.

“Our claim that two plants, Oicof and Inoplantatus, are diverging since the 1900s is based on the new data we collected,” he added.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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