Friday 21 November 2014

Glowing Worms of Someone's or Something's Death

Image: Jeff Cremer
Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train heading straight for you.

Other times it's a meat-eating worm! Though that's admittedly more rare.

And you can relax because this predatory, glowing worm is barely more than 1 centimetre (half an inch) long. It's highly unlikely that there'll be enough of them to successfully eat a person alive. Highly unlikely.

They were first discovered a few years ago when wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer decided to take a walk around the Peruvian Amazon in the dead of night. Clearly, this was a man who knew how unlikely it was for anything in the Peruvian darkness to jump out from the bushes and eat him alive.

Image: Jeff Cremer
Did I say "this was a man"? I meant "is". He's doing just fine.

As he walked, he spotted some beads of unearthly light glowing in a wall of dirt. Upon closer inspection, these beads of light turned out to be small, bioluminescent worm-things poking their heads out of burrows and brandishing their vicious mandibles.

He returned some time later with three entomologists, Aaron Pomerantz, Mike Bentley and Geoff Gallice. Quite a meal for an ambitious flesh-eating worm somewhere. But not here

They're thought to be the larvae of beetles, more specifically, Click Beetles. A couple hundred Click Beetles bioluminesce as adults and some don't wait that long, their larvae are child geniuses who glow from an early age. Glowing larvae have been seen poking their heads out of termite mounds (which is incredibly cool!), but never out of a simple wall of dirt.

To test whether this glow-worm was really a predator the entomologists got an ant and waved it in front of the worm's open mandibles. Sure enough, the glow-worm snapped at a leg and attempted to pull the ant down into its burrow.

Thus, what we have is a kind of miniature, terrestrial, glow-in-the-dark Bobbit Worm who attracts prey by means of eerie, green light. As it turns out, the light attracts not only ants and whatever other small prey, but also a wildlife photographer and three entomologists. I'm sure they'll remember that for future use.


TexWisGirl said...

how cool is that?! :)

Crunchy said...

Wow, just look at that guy. I feel like if I squished one, experience points would pop out.

I sure hope the Bobbit Worm is not named after Lorena...

Porakiya said...


I really want to know what they grow into!

elfinelvin said...

Hope it turns out to be a click beetle. That would be coolness on top of cool.

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: VERY!

@Crunchy: Haha! I can easily imagine them being one of those annoying beasties that pop out when you wander past their patch of soil.

@Porakiya Draekojin: Fantastic aren't they! I wonder if the adults glow as much as the youngsters.

Read the Nat Geo thing, by the way. Fantastic! The frog one was a bit of a shock. Seems a bit much just to make it more likely to get eaten!

@elfinelvin: If you can't have a cherry on top there are always click beetles!

Porakiya said...

@Joseph: Yeah, that was quite shocking. But I think the more disturbing one was the barnacle, which would forcefully change a crabs gender to support its own reproduction

Joseph JG said...

Yes! The extent to which they use and abuse their hosts is scarcely believable!