bristle-worm

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Invertebrates

Oooh, I’m stepping outside of the box:  the vertebrate museum blog is featuring a post about INVERTEBRATES!  I will admit I know next to nothing about invertebrates.  The same goes for plants/botany – I can memorize and retain the most obscure nomenclature for non-native mammals, but ask me to tell the difference between types of pine trees and I’m stumped (no pun intended).  That does not mean I don’t have a growing appreciation for these things, it just means I need to allocate more brain power to biology and less to memorizing Battlestar Galactica trivia.

Many of you guys are marine scientists, entomologists, biologists, zoologists – lend me your knowledge!  Let’s turn the tables a bit – click the photos for short descriptions, and then why don’t YOU tell ME something about any of these fantastic creatures?

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Pompeii worm (Alvinella pompejana)

The Pompeii worm is a species of deep-sea polychaete worm (commonly referred to as “bristle worms”). It is an extremophile found only at hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean. They can reach up to 13 cm in length and are pale gray, with red tentacle-like gills on their heads. Perhaps most fascinating, their tail ends are often resting in temperatures as high as 176°F (80°C), while their feather-like heads stick out of the tubes into water that is a much cooler, 72°F (22°C). Scientists are attempting to understand how Pompeii worms can withstand such extreme temperatures by studying the bacteria that form a “fleece-like” covering on their backs. Living in a symbiotic relationship, the worms secrete mucus from tiny glands on their backs to feed the bacteria, and in return, they are protected by some degree of insulation. Attaching themselves to black smokers, the worms have been found to thrive at temperatures of up to 80°C (176°F), making the Pompeii worm the most heat-tolerant complex animal known to science after the tardigrades (or water bears), which are able to survive temperatures over 150°C. Thought to subsist on vent microbes, the Pompeii worm pokes its head out of its tube home to feed and breathe.

photo credits: University of Delaware , alquimiotrofica, Chris Allen, wiki