Taxonomy

Morphology

In 1991 the new genus Tasmanipatus was described to contain both the giant velvet worm and the blind velvet worm (T. anophthalmus), whose range it neighbours. They are both velvety-skinned viviparous (giving birth to live young) members of the Peripatopsidae family with 15 pairs of legs - each of which bears well developed claws.

The giant velvet worm is larger, extending to 75mm when walking, and is uniformly pink-purple above with a white underbelly.

Evolution

T. barretti belongs to the phylum Onychophora, the various species of which are commonly known as velvet worms. Archer (1994) describes Onychophra as a ‘non-missing, missing link’ between annelids and arthropods, as they are regarded as an important link between these two major phyla and present common features of both.

Onychophora are also regarded as ‘living fossils’, as they are an ancient taxon which has changed very little over the past several million years.