Strange Green Worms Form ‘Superorganism’ as they Sunbathe

Strange green flatworms – commonly known as “mint-sauce worms” due to their bright green color – behave more like plants than they do animals, “feeding” off the sun’s rays. In fact, adult worms survive entirely on the nutrients produced by photosynthesizing symbiotic algae living within their bodies. But the peculiarities of this plant-animal species don’t end there. Curiously, a new study has found these worms collect together in enormous groups, forming a kind of “superorganism.”

The three millimeter-long worms, scientifically known as Symsagittifera roscoffensis, are found along much of Europe’s Atlantic coast. When enough of these tiny organisms gather together in shallow water on sheltered sand beaches to sunbathe, they start swimming around in a circle. When the tide is high, however, they bury themselves in the sand. They are often thought of as a plant-animal hybrid for having both plant and animal characteristics.

Their study was recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Countless specimens of the plant-animal worm, Symsagittifera roscoffensis, swim in a circular mill, forming what researchers call a “superorganism.” (Photo : Nigel Franks) 


Living Things - Symbiotic Living with photosynthetic algae

Superb speculative Emerging Technology Design exploring the symbiosis between humans and photosynthetic algae through the installation of furniture that cultivates living things. By Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier. Want!

Living Things is installed at the Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until March 27, 2016.