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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week of the Abyss: Giant Tube Worms.

If fish and eels were not freaky enough, nature really gets crazy with worms in the sea. Even without diving into the abyss, while we're more or less stuck with earthworms and leeches on land, annelids have Christmas Tree Worms and the rather unflattering pig-butt worm among their more interesting members in the ocean.

Things get even weirder in the abyss, where the harmless earthworm becomes a species whose sole purpose in life is bad hentai potential:

 

Permanently stuck around the geothermal vents ("black smokers") of the deep sea, these giant tube worms (Riftia pachyptila) are some of the largest annelids in existence. They can get 2.4 meters (7 feet ten inches) in length. Those tentacles can be pulled into the worms' white sheaths when danger approaches, not that they have many predators.

The tentacles on these worms are red for a reason: like our blood, they contain hemoglobin. The red tentacles have complex hemoglobins circulating in them, which allows them to circulate oxygen in a highly sulfuric environment. They are not poisoned by the hydrogen sulfide in their environment- instead, they benefit from taking in a substance that would kill any other animal.

Hell's lipstick.


If the tentacles coming out of their tubes were not creepy enough, imagine a 7-foot-long creature that lives solely on symbiotic bacteria. The bacteria in these worms is designed to convert hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide - basically, the stuff that Hell is made of - into usable material for the worm. These giant worms do not eat and have no gut. The millions of bacteria inside them do all the work. They're almost more like fungi than animals.

Hope you enjoyed the absolute nightmare fuel found in the deep, deep sea! Since weeks have been stunted, expect a bonus abyssal critter or two next week as well. :)

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