Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009ay) [Conservation Advice].
 
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, forest clearing and management activities continue to pose a threat to the species. A recovery plan will provide mechanisms to ensure appropriate long-term management of the species' habitat (17/06/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under Section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (80) (17/06/2009) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009j) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Blind Velvet Worm): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014ui) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Endangered (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Tasmanipatus anophthalmus [66773]
Family Peripatopsidae:Onychophora (no order):Onychophora (no class):Onychophora:Animalia
Species author Ruhberg, Mesibov, Briscoe & Tait, 1991
Infraspecies author  
Reference ANZECC Threatened Fauna List May 2000
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images
http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/Attachments/LJEM-6HJ658/$FILE/North%20East%20Velvet%20Worms.pdf

Scientific name: Tasmanipatus anophthalmus

Common name: Blind Velvet Worm

Other common name: Tasmanian Velvet Worm

The species is conventionally accepted (Ruhberg et al. 1991).

The Blind Velvet Worm is an invertebrate with a soft, flattened and cylindrical body covered in minute papillae, giving it a velvet-like appearance. The Blind Velvet Worm has 15 pairs of non-jointed legs with well-developed feet and claws and has antennae extending from the head. When at rest it measures 25–35 mm, although when walking it extends to approximately 50 mm in length. The Blind Velvet Worm lacks eyes and, except for the dark brown tips of its claws and jaws, is completely white (Tas. DPIW 2005; TSSC 2009ay, 2009az).

The Blind Velvet Worm is endemic to Tasmania. Its range is restricted to the St Marys area in the north-east of the state (Mesibov 1997). The most compact core of its distribution is centered on the Mt Elephant area and the catchments of Lower Marsh, Piccaninny and Wardlaws Creeks (Mesibov 1997; Tas. DPIW 2005; TSSC 2009az).

The species' extent of occurrence is estimated to be 237 km² (Tas. DPIW 2007, cited in TSSC 2009az). However, by excluding extensive areas of agricultural land within this range, Mesibov (1997) calculated the extent of occurrence to be approximately 152 km². The most compact core of distribution, centered on the Mt Elephant area and the catchments of Lower Marsh, Piccaninny and Wardlaws Creeks, comprises 41 km² (Mesibov 1997; Tas. DPIW 2005). The Blind Velvet Worm is considered to have a restricted geographical distribution (TSSC 2009az).

The Blind Velvet Worm has been very well surveyed, with over 250 searches for the species conducted. While the exact nature of the distribution within its range is not well understood, the species' extent of occurrence is unlikely to be extended by more than a few kilometres. Therefore, the current known distribution of the species is likely to be very close to, if not the actual, distribution (Mesibov 1997).

A further limitation to the geographic distribution of the Blind Velvet Worm is its parapatry with the Giant Velvet Worm (Tasmanipatus barrette). The two species' ranges meet, but do not overlie. This is the only documented case of parapatry in Onychophora and the reason for this lack in overlap remains unexplained (Mesibov & Ruhberg 1991).

With such a restricted distribution, the species is vulnerable to stochastic events such as wildfire. The threat of wildfire is particularly problematic as the species' specific microhabitat is highly susceptible to being altered by the effects of such events and, generally, the species is not found in logs that have been burned within the last 20 years (TSSC 2009az).

Throughout the species' geographic distribution, land management regimes vary. The species' range falls within areas of private land without conservation covenants that may be subject to land clearance, and areas of state forest that may be subject to forestry activities (M. Wapstra 2007, pers. comm., cited in TSSC 2009az). These activities may result in fragmentation of the species' already restricted geographic distribution (TSSC 2009az).

An estimate of the total number of mature Blind Velvet Worms is not available (Tas. DPIW 2005).

The full impact of European settlement on Blind Velvet Worm numbers is not known. Given the scale of reduction in previously continuous eucalypt forest throughout north-east Tasmania as a result of clearing for agriculture, mining and forestry, a historical reduction in numbers of some magnitude can be inferred (Mesibov 1988). However, although a relatively large area of the species' potential range has been converted to plantation or agricultural land, there is no quantitative data to clearly demonstrate that a reduction in numbers of the Blind Velvet Worm has occurred (TSSC 2009az).

Although the Blind Velvet Worm has been well surveyed, density and abundance are most often expressed as a search success rate, not absolute numbers found (M. Wapstra 2007, pers. comm., cited in TSSC 2009az). Sampling is limited as, being a cryptic species that occurs deep inside logs, surveys of the Blind Velvet Worm require logs to be broken up and the microhabitat destroyed. The number of individuals in an area would also depend on a range of factors, such as the number and suitability of logs, and the number of individuals within different logs may also vary greatly (TSSC 2009az).

A wildfire burnt over 30 000 ha around the St Marys area in November 2006 (TFSO 2006) which may have reduced Blind Velvet Worm numbers, but the effect on the species has not yet been assessed (TSSC 2009az).

Some of the species' range occurs in state forest and non-reserved private land which may be subject to forestry activities or land clearing for agriculture in the immediate future (M. Wapstra 2007, pers. comm., cited in TSSC 2009az). While the species' geographic distribution may decline in the future due to threats such as land clearance and wildfire, there is no quantitative data to indicate that numbers of Blind Velvet Worms will continue to decline in the immediate future (TSSC 2009az).

The Blind Velvet Worm is terrestrial and primarily inhabits dry eucalypt forests. As the species' permeable skin makes it prone to water loss it is restricted to moist micro-habitats, and predominantly occurs deep within the soft rotting centre of decaying eucalypt logs. The species' prime habitat is forest containing numerous rotting eucalypt logs, where no high-intensity or frequent fires have occurred within at least 20 years (Bryant & Jackson 1999b). The species is most often found along streams, gullies and shaded east and south facing slopes (Mesibov 1997; TSSC 2009az).

The Blind Velvet Worm lives for several years and reaches sexual maturity at approximately one year of age (Tas. DPIW 2005). The species gives birth to 16–18 live young at a time, however there are limited data on the species' breeding system (Bryant & Jackson 1999b; TSSC 2009az).

The species is nocturnal and predatory, feeding on litter-dwelling invertebrates, which it catches by ejecting streams of sticky fluid from appendages on its head (Tas. DPIW 2005; TSSC 2009az).

The main identified threats to the Blind Velvet Worm include the clearance of native forest for agriculture and conversion of native forest to plantation. Potential threats to the Blind Velvet Worm are too frequent or high intensity burns and firewood collection (Tas. DPIW 2005).

A major threat to the Blind Velvet Worm is the clearance of native forest. In areas of non-reserved private property or crown land the conversion of native forest to plantation or clearance for agriculture is a threat to the Blind Velvet Worm (Tas. DPIW 2005). About half of all recorded localities for the species are in state forest. Although these areas may be subject to extensive forestry activities, most Blind Velvet Worm habitat is not ideally suited to conversion to plantation. Moreover, the Tasmanian forestry industry has implemented a policy to manage populations of Blind Velvet Worms in wood production forests. Forestry Tasmania recommend only native forest silviculture, e.g. light selective logging, as the main form of forestry activity within the species' range. This practice is identified as a minor threat to the species, as it does not lead to a massive reduction in decaying logs (M. Wapstra 2007, pers. comm., cited in TSSC 2009az).

Additional threats include inappropriate fire regimes or wildfire. Fire of high frequency or intensity can degrade or eliminate suitable habitat by clearing leaf-litter and drying out suitable logs (Tas. DPIW 2005). The level of threat is currently increased due to the effect of drought on fuel load conditions within the species' range (M. Wapstra 2007, pers. comm., cited in TSSC 2009az). Firewood collection also poses a threat to the Blind Velvet Worm. Although logs that provide habitat for the species are generally unsuitable for use as firewood, logs in earlier stages of decay may be targeted, thus depleting the recruitment of habitat logs (Tas. DPIW 2005).

The Blind Velvet Worm may also be threatened through over-collecting and the destruction of microhabitats by research workers and collectors (Mesibov & Ruhberg 1991).

The Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (TSSC 2009ay) outlines the following priority actions:

  • Undertake research to determine whether course woody material can be manipulated after fire to make it suitable for this species.
  • Design and implement a monitoring program.
  • In the areas identified as prime habitat of the Blind Velvet Worm, decaying logs should be left undisturbed.
  • Preserve native forest in large corridors throughout the species' range, particularly in areas identified as prime
  • If forest logging is unavoidable, then light selective logging is preferred, combined with retaining large corridors of native forest. Southeast facing slopes should be given a higher priority for protection.
  • Protect and establish native vegetation along streams to act as corridors linking properties with suitable habitat.
  • Monitor known populations to identify additional threats.
  • Investigate formal conservation arrangements such as the use of covenants, conservation agreements or inclusion in reserve tenure. Investigate participation of private landholders within the species' range in programs such as the Private Forest Reserves Program.
  • Control access routes to suitably constrain public access to known sites on public land by ensuring roads and commercial activity avoid habitat sites.
  • Discourage or disallow the collection of firewood from known habitat sites by providing information to local councils, forestry managers and rangers, and employ signage where appropriate.
  • Develop and implement suitable fire management strategies for forest that is known habitat of the Blind Velvet Worm.
  • Where appropriate provide maps of known occurrences to local and state rural fire services and seek inclusion of mitigation measures in bush fire risk management plans, risk register and/or operation maps.
  • Provide information to landowners on the range of the species and what they can do to help protect the species, such as placing a conservation covenant on their property.
  • Raise awareness of the Blind Velvet Worm within the local community through fact sheets/information brochures.
  • Encourage research workers to study existing collections rather than seek out new material, where possible.

Minister's Reasons for Recovery Plan Decision
There should be a recovery plan for this species, as forest clearing and management activities continue to pose a threat to the species. A recovery plan will provide mechanisms to ensure appropriate long-term management of the species' habitat (2009).

The Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (TSSC 2009ay) includes a brief biological overview and a number of recommended management objectives. In addition, within the species' range there are several conservation covenants on private land which have been established under the Tasmanian Nature Conservation Act 2002. These areas of land are subject to management plans related to the identified values of the area (TSSC 2009ay).

The species' range also includes several formal reserves. Proposed activities within reserves are subject to the Tasmanian Reserve Management Code of Practice (Parks and Wildlife Service, Forestry Tasmania and Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment 2003). Within state forest, some of the species' range falls within informal reserves managed under Forestry Tasmania's Management Decision Classification (Forestry Tasmania 2001) and some sites within production forest have specific coding for management of particular values, two of which are specifically coded for the presence of the Blind Velvet Worm (TSSC 2009ay).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009ay) [Conservation Advice].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Wood and Pulp Plantations:Habitat destruction due to forestry activities Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009ay) [Conservation Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Gathering Terrestrial Plants:Recreational harvest Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Gathering Terrestrial Plants:Scientific harvest Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat disturbance due to foresty activities Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat loss, modification and degradation due to firewood collection Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009ay) [Conservation Advice].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Mechanical disturbance during construction, maintanance or recreational activities Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009ay) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate fire regimes including natural wildfires Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate prescribed regimes and/or vegetation management to control fire regimes Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].
Protected status:Protected status:Lack of secure conservation land tenure Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2009az) [Listing Advice].

Bryant, S. & J. Jackson (1999b). Tasmania's Threatened Fauna Handbook: What, Where and How to Protect Tasmania's Threatened Animals. Hobart, Tasmania: Threatened Species Unit, Parks and Wildlife Service.

Forestry Tasmania (2001). Management Decision Classification - User Manual. [Online]. Hobart, Tasmania: Forestry Tasmania. Available from: http://www.forestrytas.com.au/uploads/File/pdf/mdc_manual.pdf.

Mesibov, R. (1988). Tasmanian Onychophora. Report to the Tasmanian Department of Lands, Parks and Wildlife.

Mesibov, R. (1997). The blind velvet worm (Tasmanipatus anophthalmus Ruhberg et al. 1991). A background report for conservation planners. Unpublished report to the Tasmanian Threatened Species Unit, Parks and Wildlife Service.

Mesibov, R. & H. Ruhberg (1991). Ecology and conservation of Tasmanipatus barretti and T. anophthalmus, parapatric onychophorans (Onychophora: Peripatosidae) from northeastern Tasmania. In: Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. 125:11-16.

Parks and Wildlife Service, Forestry Tasmania and Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment (2003). Tasmanian Reserve Management Code of Practice. [Online]. Hobart, Tasmania: Department of Tourism, Parks, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=6901.

Ruhberg, H., R. Mesibov, D.A. Briscoe & N.N. Tait (1991). Tasmanipatus barretti gen. nov. sp. nov. and T. anophthalmus sp. nov.: two new and unusual onychophorans (Onychophora: Peripatopsidae) from northeastern Tasmania. In: Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. 125:7-10.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries & Water (Tas. DPIW) (2005). Tasmanian Threatened Fauna Listing Statement: North East Velvet Worms.

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water (Tas. DPIW) (2007). Natural Values Atlas. [Online]. Available from: http://www.naturalvaluesatlas.dpiw.tas.gov.au. [Accessed: 23-Jul-2009].

Tasmanian Fire Service Online (TFSO) (2006). Bushfire Summaries. [Online]. Available from: http://www.fire.tas.gov.au/mysite/Show?pageId=colBushfireSummaries. [Accessed: 23-Jul-2009].

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2009ay). Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/66773-conservation-advice.pdf.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2009az). Commonwealth Listing Advice on Tasmanipatus anophthalmus. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/66773-listing-advice.pdf.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Tasmanipatus anophthalmus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sun, 31 Aug 2014 09:20:39 +1000.