November 24, 2010

‘Squidworm’ Discovered Off Indonesian Coast

U.S. scientists have discovered a unique new species of worm that feeds on plankton and has 10 slender tentacles on its head--a creature they are affectionately dubbing the 'squidworm'.

Using a robotic submersible in the Celebes Sea, off the coast of Indonesia, researchers with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts and the University of California, Santa Cruz discovered the creature at depths of 2,500 to 2,800 meters below sea level.

The annelid, which grows to sizes of approximately 9cm, was given the scientific name Teuthidodrilus samae. Before it was officially classified, however, Monica Heger of OurAmazingPlanet, reporting for MSNBC.com, stated that "the Woods Hole scientists called the newly discovered creature a squidworm because it had characteristics of both species."

It uses the tentacles on its head to swim, and "could be the missing link between species that reside solely in the seafloor's mud and those that live only in the water column," according to Heger, who also noted that the new species was "unusually abundant for creatures residing in such deep water."

"About the size of the palm of a hand, the squid worm has a tapered body with a color that transitions from black to brown," she added. "The large muscles just underneath its skin, used for swimming, glow a shimmery, iridescent pink. Along the side of its body are glittery bristles that help it swim, and 10 long appendages hang off its front end," which researchers from UC Santa Cruz told her were most likely used to gather food.

The scientists--Karen J. Osborn, Laurence P. Madin, and Greg W. Rouse--have published a paper detailing their findings in this week's edition of the journal Biology Letters.

In their report, they note that "two characters distinguish T. samae" from other marine annelid worms: "notochaetae forming broad, concavo-convex paddles and six pairs of free-standing, oppositely branched nuchal organs." They also note that the squidworm "illustrates how much we have to learn about even the large, abundant inhabitants of deep-pelagic communities."

Photo by Larry Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


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