Wednesday 6 April 2011


Image source
Goodness me! What on Earth do we have here? Is it even on Earth? It actually looks like it's floating in outer space. It also looks like that's the best place for it. Regardless, this creature really is from good old planet Earth. It was first discovered in 2004 and again in November 2010, residing in the Celebes Sea between Indonesia and the Philippines at a depth of some 2,800 metres (9,200 feet). It's called the Squidworm.

Firstly, it's a worm! Specifically, it's a polychaete worm, a kind of annelid. Polychaetes move around using fleshy, sticky-out things that are fleshy and stick out of each body segment. They're called parapodia, and free-swimming polychaetes like the Squidworm use them to swim freely. I'm getting very repetitive, aren't I? Anyway, the Squidworm undulates these parapodia in a way that is as mesmerising as it is disgusting. Against the darkness of the deep sea it appears to be flying, I just don't know whether it's mostly beautiful or mostly horrible.

Parapodia are also used for respiration, but the Squidworm needs to do more to gain enough oxygen at these depths. This is where the "Squid" part of their name comes into play. From their head, protrude ten extraordinary tentacles. The Squidworm reaches about 9 centimetres in body length, the tentacles are about the same or even longer. It seems that 8 of them are used for breathing and 2 for plucking food from their surroundings. Food in this case is marine snow, the little scraps and crumbs of organic matter that drift down from brighter parts of the sea. Squidworms also taste and smell using nuchal organs, which are described as cilliated pits or grooves. It just sounds like "hairy nostrils" to me, and makes me want to sneeze.

The Squidworm's relatives are mostly bottom feeders. It is thought that the Squidworm could be a transitional organism in the midst of learning how to live as a deep sea swimmer. I wish them luck, I just hope they don't start looking normal and ordinary too soon.


TexWisGirl said...

your commentary always makes your posts so entertaining! these guys are pretty amazing - hairy nostrils and all!

Crunchy said...

Oh maaan, whaaat is that? I'm OK with deep sea organisms doing their own thing but the Squidworm looks like it tried to do five things at once and got mixed up. How else do you end up breathing through your feet?

Emma Springfield said...

Are they really that colorful or are they enhanced? This is very interesting. I have never heard of these worms before.

Joseph JG said...

@texwisgirl: Thanks, I try my best!

@Crunchy: I know, it's utterly preposterous, isn't it? I HAD to have it!

@Emma: Apparently the youngsters are transparent, adults are dark brown. The videos probably have a big torch or something shining on them, the pictures I'm not sure. Basically, I'm not sure. I guess we're in the same boat!