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  05.10.2020, 07:33h

Krka National Park is home to numerous endemic and rare animal species

To celebrate World Animal Protection Day on 4 October, we would like to present Krka's stenoendemic centipede species, Eupolybothrus cavernicolus, that lives nowhere else in the world.

Just as every country has to know its history and culture, it must also be acquainted with its biodiversity. This was also one of the conditions to be met for entry into the European Union. Today, we know that Croatia is among Europe’s most biodiversity rich countries. All new knowledge about organisms, from the largest and best-known plants and animals to the tiniest microorganisms, is exceptionally important for our country. Scientists have estimated that at least 10,000 species go extinct every year. The sixth massive extinction in the history of the plant is going on right now, during our current era.

Therefore, every newly discovered species is of the utmost importance, especially those that are stenoendemic (meaning that it lives in only one place on Earth). In 2013, the troglophile cave centipede Eupolybothrus cavernicolus Komerički & Stoev was discovered in Krka National Park, in the Miljacka II cave and the Cave behind the mill (Miljacka IV). These are currently the only known localities of this species. Centipedes are among the largest cave invertebrates. This stenoendemic centipede is yellowish-brown to chestnut brown in color, measures about 30 mm in length with its hind legs and antennae that are more than 20 mm long.

Just as fascinating as the discovery of this new species was its description, which was described using the “cybertype” model for the first time ever. This is a digital 3D diagram of the entire animal, and associated with the original type materials, as a virtual dataset of the anatomy and morphology of the species that enables reconstruction and interactive manipulation with the type materials. This study by an international team of biologists, including Croat Ana Komerički, a member of the Croatian Biospeleological Society, was published in the first edition of the international online journal Biodiversity Data Journal and includes the digital data set, including the fully sequenced molecules, DNA barcoding and video of a live specimen ex situ. This innovative approach to taxonomy is exceptionally important, particularly since the number of species suffering from extinction is, unfortunately, higher that the number of newly discovered species. As a result, taxonomists are being forced to accelerate biodiversity research.

Regardless of whether they live in water, in the air, on or under the ground, the endemic, rare and threatened animal species have made the Krka River area one of the most valuable natural areas in Croatia, and in Europe. That is why protecting species and their habitats, and minimizing human impacts is the fundamental objective of the Public Institute of Krka National Park. These activities are carried out year round, through a series of adopted action plans. World Animal Protection Day is an excellent opportunity to once again stress the importance of animals for the survival of life on Earth. This day was proclaimed in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence, Italy, to emphasize the negative position of endangered species. According to the data of world organisations, between 50 and 150 species go extinct every day, and the main cause of threat to animals are humans. World Animal Protection Day is celebrated on 4 October, St. Francis of Assisi Day, the patron saint of animals.