A blind spaghetti worm has inflated tentacles that make it look like a Pom-Pom

spaghetti worm

Spaghetti worms may not have any eyes but they sure have a lot of flare. Image credit: © 2003 MBARI

A deep-sea spaghetti worm was recently shown by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), which earlier made a video about the unusual organism to celebrate International Polychaete Day. The film was taken from a trip to the Gulf of California in Mexico in 2012, when researchers saw the appearance of sea pom-poms on the seabed.

Unsure of what sea oddity they were looking at, MBARI enlisted the help of taxonomic expert Greg Rouse of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to identify the unique multi-layered worms. Rouse helped the team discover that they were dealing with an undescribed species of spaghetti worm in the genus Biremis.

The tasseled worm still awaits formal identification in journal paper, but we know it is within the Biremis genus, a group of animals that share certain characteristics. These include no eyes, no gills, and lack of bristles along its body parts.

Biremis especially because of its strange inflated tentacles, which give this pink worm a pom-pom aesthetic. Usually, animals of this genus live in tubes or holes on the seabed, but especially Biremis acts a little differently.

Rather than hiding on the sea floor, this particular spaghetti worm was found sitting on the surface of the sand or swimming just above it. Swimming may not seem like the easiest thing for spaghetti-like animals, but in doing so, the worm can increase its feeding opportunities by moving on to foraging sites. more profitable.

Those spaghetti tendrils come in handy here, sifting through the sediment in search of nutritious flecks of marine snow, the name given to the constant shower of organic sediment flowing down the water column.

Another animal known to appreciate this tasty sea dandruff is a recently described anemone that moves along the sea floor with the help of hermit crabs who wear it like a fashionable hat.

spaghetti worm

It is easy to see how scientists landed on the nickname “spaghetti worm”. Image credit: © 2012 MBARI

This spaghetti worm video comes from a massive archive of around 28,000 hours of footage that MBARI is using to better understand ocean wildlife and ecosystems in an effort to protect our marine habitats for the future.

“MBARI and our collaborators have described more than 240 new species, from a new species of crown jelly and a worm that drops bioluminescent ‘bombs’ to unique carnivorous sponges and a variety of bone-eating worms,” ​​an MBARI spokesperson told IFLScience .

“By documenting new species in the deep sea, MBARI is helping to establish a baseline for life in the world’s largest environment. We can’t protect what we don’t understand, so understanding what lives in the deep sea is a critical step in protecting deep-sea animals and habitats from threats such as overfishing, plastic pollution and climate change.”

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