Tentaculate Polychaete Worms Have More Fun

by Jennifer Frazer on December 8, 2010

From the same scientist that gave us Swima bombviridis, we have a new polychaete species: the squidworm, Teuthidodrilis samae. Its slinky dance is hypnotic.

Although I have to admit I was cheering for the worm at the end of this video. Come on, little squidworm! Evade that vacuum tube! I have no idea why. I’m all for science.

As you can see, the key feature of the squidworm are its voluptuous tentacles. You can get a much better look at them here. According to my admittedly scanty sources, the squidworm lives in the deep (ca. 10,000 feet, or nearly two miles down) and feeds on marine snow, a mixture of fish poop and dead plankton. I’m glad I don’t have to eat marine snow. I have to imagine it has the taste and consistency of that gruel from The Matrix . . .

What is unclear is whether they use those tentacles to grab their food, although I would imagine that is the case because most tenatculated organisms do. (UPDATE: According to information here, eight of its tentacles are used for breathing (gas exchange of CO2 and O2 by increasing the surface area for it) and the two that are loosely coiled in this picture are indeed for feeding. I don’t count eight of the other tentacles in the picture, but if the scientists say so. . . )  In any case, recall that polychaetes as  a group are characterized by lateral body extensions called parapodia (what look like their feet) that have bristly extensions called chaete (“kee-tee”), hence the name polychaete for the group. Polychaetes come in a vareity of splendiferous forms, including the christmas tree worm, the Pompeii worm, the recently discovered Osedax whale-bone-boring worm, and the Methuselah-esque (life expectancy: something like 250 years) cold methane seep tube worm Lamellibrachia. Polychaetes, in turn, are annelid (segmented) worms, like our old friend the earthworm. You can see how everyone is related (sort of — science in progress) here.

The squidworm stands out among polychaetes in a few ways: it is free-swimming, while most are tunnelers of the sea floor. It also has six pairs of oppositely branched nuchal organs — cilia-lined structures typically found in pits and used for smelling or sensing things. I’m not sure where those are located in the pictures. And its got those tentacles, which are as long or longer than its body.

Finally, the squidworm was discovered in the Celebes Sea. Where is the Celebes Sea? you may be wondering. GOOD QUESTION. I did not know either, so I looked it up. It’s in southeast Asia, just to the south of the Philippines and sorta midway between Australia and Vietnam.

And now you know.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Christian Drake December 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm

See, because you said “The Matrix,” the squidworm fighting the vacuum looked like the spy parasite robot sucked out of Neo’s bellybutton in the first one. Thanks for that.

Also: a worm that lives over 250 years? Must learn more…

Jennifer Frazer December 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Oh, wow. Totally. How did I miss that?

Yes, don’t miss Lamellibrachia, for instance, at this post I did last year . . .

kati December 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

the stories a 250 year old tube worm could tell ;)

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