Echiniscus testudo (Doyère, 1840) in New Zealand: anthropogenic dispersal or evidence for the ‘Everything is Everywhere’ hypothesis?

Many species of microscopic invertebrates, such as tardigrades or rotifers, have been traditionally regarded as cosmopolitan. This conviction was based on classical taxonomic observations of very similar phenotypes across the globe and hypothetical abilities of micrometazoans for large-scale dispersal with air and water currents. However, several recent studies showed that micrometazoan species may have restricted geographic ranges, suggesting that microscopic size is not the only determinant of dispersal. Here, we describe the first Australasian record of Echiniscus testudo, a heterotardigrade originally described from the Holarctic. Morphological and genetic analyses gave congruent conclusions and confirmed that European and New Zealand populations represent a single species. Importantly, however, without broader sampling in primeval localities, it is not possible to test whether the New Zealand record of E. testudo is a result of natural dispersal or whether the species was brought to Australasia by humans.