Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 21:23 EDT

Lamellibrachia luymesi

Lamellibrachia luymesi is a species of tube worm in the Siboglinidae family. It is found in the Gulf of Mexico in deep-sea cold seeps where hydrocarbons are leaking from the seafloor, typically at depths of 1,600 to 2,600 feet.

This species can reach lengths over 10 feet, and grows very slowly, living more than 250 years. It forms biogenic habitat by creating large aggregations of hundreds to thousands of individuals. Living in these aggregations are over a hundred different species of animals, many of which are found only at these seeps.

This worm is entirely reliant on internal, sulfide-oxidizing symbionts for its nutrition. It provides bacteria with hydrogen sulfide and oxygen by taking them up from the environment and binding them to a specialized hemoglobin molecule. Unlike tubeworms that live in hydrothermal vents, this species uses a posterior extension of its body called the root to take up hydrogen sulfide from the seep sediments. It may also help fuel the generation of sulfide by excreting sulfate through their roots into the sediments below the aggregations.

Image Caption: Close-up photograph of the symbiotic vestimentiferan tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi from a cold seep at 550 m depth in the Gulf of Mexico. The tubes of the worms are stained with a blue chitin stain to determine their growth rates. Approximately 14 mo of growth is shown by the staining here. Credit: Charles Fisher/Wikipedia(CC BY 2.5)

Lamellibrachia luymesi