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The free swimming Actinotroch larva of a phoronid worm. They are plankton feeders. The hood, which covers the mouth, and the feeding tentacles are at the top.

(Image taken by Anita Slotwinski, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania, Australia.)


Bone Worms aka Snotflowers

Discovered in 2002, zombie worms (genus Osedax, which in Latin means “bone devourer”) extract nutrients from deceased whales and fish. Despite their lack of mouth, gut and anus, these intriguing creatures secrete acids through their skin to break down the bones and ‘feast on’ the carcasses.

(Image: Yoshihiro Fujiwara/JAMSTEC via The Ocean Portal)

(via: NoveTaxa)


Bone Worms (Osedax sp.) on Dead Whales in Monterey Bay

It sounds like a classic horror story—eyeless, mouthless worms lurk in the dark, settling onto dead animals and sending out green “roots” to devour their bones. In fact, such “boneworms” do exist in the deep sea. After planting several dead whales on the seafloor, a team of biologists recently announced that as many as 15 different species of boneworms may live in Monterey Bay alone.

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The Christmas tree worm (Spirobranchus giganteus) is a small, tube-building marine polychaete worm. Both its common and Latin names refer to the two spiral structures, the most common feature seen by divers, which resemble Christmas trees. These are specialized mouth appendages which trap prey microorganisms and also act as respiratory structures.

(via: Wikipedia)         (Photo: Nick Hobgood)


Electric Blue Worm - Deep Atlantic

by James Owen

This deep-sea scale worm (family Polynoidae) boasts iridescent scales that flash in deep blue hues, though scientists aren’t sure why, since the creature lives in total darkness. “It shuffles along the seafloor on bristly legs, picking up little bits and pieces,” said expedition member Monty Priede.

The strange animal was located in 2010 in the mid-Atlantic using Isis, the U.K.’s deepest-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Isis explored as far down as 12,000 feet (3,600 meters), revealing marine species whose sheer abundance surprised the study team.

(via: National Geo)          (photo: David Shale)


White Acorn Worm - Deep Atlantic

by James Owen

This newfound creature is part of a group that may represent an evolutionary link between vertebrates and invertebrates, scientists believe. Previously only a handful of species of the enteropneust acorn worm had been known, and only from the Pacific Ocean. But the recent (2010) expedition turned up three potential new species of these “living fossils” along the undersea mountain chain that divides the Atlantic Ocean lengthwise.

“What we’re seeing here are the first steps in the evolution of mobile animals, either by crawling or swimming,” said marine biologist Monty Priede, of the University of Aberdeen. “This particular white one we observed swimming.”

(via: National Geo)          (photo: David Shale)


Newly Discovered Volcanic Sea Vents Crawling with Creatures

by Ker Than

Smoke-like columns of mineral-rich water rise from a hydrothermal vent—one of ten active volcanic vents recently discovered in the Gulf of California, the long, narrow body of water between Baja California and mainland Mexico.

The vents are the first to be found in the region despite many years of searching. Scientists had suspected active vents existed in the gulf, due to the region’s volcanic activity, but until now they’d been hard to track down.

The new “black smokers” were found using sonar-equipped robotic submarines, which were deployed during the last leg of a three-month expedition by California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). The team has been using sonar vehicles to successfully locate new vents in the northeastern Pacific since 2006.

On the latest excursion, sonar maps of the seafloor revealed the tell-tale structures of vent chimneys, showing the team just where to send its remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)…

(read more: National Geo)       (photos: MBARI)


Recently Discovered Deep Sea:  Polychaete Worm

by Christine Dell’Amore

Don’t let the rainbow glow fool you. This polychaete worm-found 3,900 ft (1,200 m) down on the muddy seafloor off northern New Zealand—is a ferocious predator, with jaws that project à la the Alien movie monster.

Scientists spotted the creature—and many others—during a three-week expedition this spring throughout four deep-sea regions in the volcano-rich Kermadec Ridge.

Covering 3,800 sq mi (9,840 sq km), the study area included undersea mountains, continental slopes, canyons, and hydrothermal vents-areas where undersea volcanoes release hot water and gases.

The “exciting” survey turned up several known species, from stalked barnacles to giant mussels, as well as potential new ones, biologist Malcolm Clark said by email…

(read more: National Geo)        (photo: NIWA)


Extreme Ocean Environments: Deep–Sea Hydrothermal Vents 

Recently discovered in 1977, hydrothermal vents, also known as “black smokers”, revolutionized our understanding of life. Until the discovery of these vent systems, all known ecosystems on Earth had photosynthetic organisms at the base of their food chain. 

However, this particular type of ecosystem is dependent on chemosynthetic bacteria that generate energy from hydrogen sulfide, the chemical responsible for the smell of rotten eggs.  These chemotrophic (chemical eating) bacteria exist in symbiotic relationships with other members of the ecosystem including mussels and 8 foot long tubeworms. These tubeworms have no mouth, gut or anus. Instead, they have a giant organ in the center of their body called a “trophosome”. It is filled with symbiotic bacteria that take on all the digestive and excretory functions of the worms.

Pompeii worms, like the one pictured below, are also found close to these vents. These worms are the most heat-tolerant complex life form on Earth. They are able to thrive in 176°F water, whereas the Sahara Desert ant, the runner-up, can only survive in temperatures up to 136°F. The bluish “hair” covering Pompeii worms is actually made up of bacteria that produce heat resistant enzymes. Researchers believe these enzymes could have a variety of applications, including pharmaceutical production and food processing. In addition to supporting a variety of worms, hydrothermal vents also support crabs, shrimp and fish.

(via: California Academy of Sciences)

(photos: NOAA)

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