A new species of velvet worm has been discovered in the jungles of Vietnam. Unlike related velvet worms, however, this one has uniquely shaped hairs that cover its body, and it reaches a length of 2.5 inches long, said Ivo de Sena Oliveira, a researcher at the University of Leipzig, Germany, who described the species in Zoologischer Anzeiger.
The paper suggests that thousands of unknown species of velvet worms are just waiting to be found throughout the world's tropical rain forests. Oliveira's research suggests that in the Amazon rain forest alone, there may be a new species of velvet worm about every 15 miles.
Velvet worms are very difficult to find and are little known because they spend much of their lives hidden in moist areas in the soil, under rocks, or in rotting logs. They spend most of their time in this environments partially because their permeable skin makes them dry out quickly. The one time of the year that the Vietnamese species of velvet worm exits the soil is the rainy season.
The velvet worms' bodies are fluid-filled, covered in a thin skin and are kept rigid by pressurized liquid. This hydrostatic pressure is what allows them to walk, although very slowly, on fluid-filled, stubby legs that do not have any joints. The slowness, however, works to their advantage.