Wednesday 15 July 2015

Slime Fan Worm

Image: John Turnbull
Myxicola infundibulum
I thought most worms were fans of slime?

Image: Donna Pomeroy
At first glance, there doesn't seem to be anything slimy about the Slime Fan Worm. On the contrary they look like delightful flowers beautifying the sea floor. All you can see is a kind of funnel made up of lots of feathers all interlaced in a circle. Its colour may be anything from deep maroon to orange, lavender or silvery blue.

Image: Yin Keen Chan
Sometimes they're the prettiest thing around, emerging from muddy sediment near the coasts of northern Europe or either the western or eastern coast of North America.

Image: BIO Photography Group, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario
However, that feathery, flowery funnel is barely half the story. Buried in the ground beneath is up to 20 cm (8 in) of worm just bursting to... stay exactly where it is.

The funnel sprouts out of the worm's head and is used to catch food. If something altogether too big comes along and casts its shadow over the funnel, the worm is swift to disappear into its burrow.

And as it does so, you might notice a noisome wobble as it escapes to safety. This at last is the slime, for Slime Fan Worms live in an underground tube made out of soft, transparent mucus-type stuff. It typically gets covered in sand so that it loses its transparency, but it always has that faintly disgusting wobble.

This is also where they get their genus name from. Myxicola means something like "living in slime". Nevertheless if someone decided to make Myxi Cola, I'd try it.


TexWisGirl said...

an elizabethan collar.

Joseph JG said...

With a mucus neck!