Blind spaghetti worm has inflated tentacles that make it look like a pompom

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 showcased by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), which previously made a video about the unusual organism to celebrate International Polychaete Day. The footage was from an expedition to Mexico’s Gulf of California in 2012, when scientists saw what looked like marine pompoms on the seabed.

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

The quacked worm is still awaiting formal identification in a journal paper, but we know it’s inside Biremis genus, a group of animals that share certain characteristics. These include no eyes, no gills, and a lack of bristles along the body segments.

Biremis is best known for its strange inflated tentacles, which give this pink worm its pom-pom aesthetic. Animals of this genus typically live in tubes or caves on the seabed, but this is special Biremis behaves a little differently.

Instead of hiding in the ocean floor, this particular spaghetti worm has been found either sitting on the surface of the sand or swimming just above it. Swimming may not seem like the easiest thing for animals to do compared to spaghetti, but by doing so, the worm can increase its feeding opportunities by moving on to more lucrative feeding sites.

The many spaghetti tendrils come in handy here, sifting through the sediment in search of nutrient-rich patches of marine snow, the name given to the continuous shower of organic waste that drifts down the water column.

Another animal known to be fond of this delicious sea flake is a recently described anemone that moves along the ocean floor with the help of hermit crabs that wear it like a fashionable hat.

spaghetti worm

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

This spaghetti worm video comes from a huge archive of around 28,000 hours of footage that MBARI uses to gain a better understanding of marine 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 convoluted jelly and a worm that releases 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 largest environment on Earth. We cannot protect what we do not understand, so understanding what lives in the deep sea is a critical first step towards protecting deep sea animals and habitats from threats such as overfishing, plastic pollution and climate change.”

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