WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) — Microscopic animals that live in soils are as diverse in arid grasslands or the tundra and woodlands as in lush tropical forests, a U.S. study says.
Scientists have generally accepted that a wider range of species that live above ground can be found at the equator than at the Earth’s poles, but the same doesn’t hold true for species that prefer a life under the surface, a release from the National Science Foundation said Monday.
A team of NSF-funded ecologists studied the global distribution of soil animals such as nematodes and mites across a broad range of ecosystems from the tropics to the poles.
Soil samples were collected at such diverse as a tropical forest in Costa Rica, arid grassland in Kenya, warm temperate forest in New Zealand, shrub steppe of Argentina, and tundra and boreal forest of Alaska and Sweden.
Researchers found that each location had a diversity of soil animals, including an “amazing diversity of species” that had never been discovered before, Jim Garey at the University of South Florida said.
However, each ecosystem has its own particular species of soil animals, the researchers said.
“This challenges the long-held view that these smaller animals are widely distributed,” Diana Wall of Colorado State University said.
“However, unlike most above-ground organisms, there was no indication that latitude made a difference in soil animal diversity.”