Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Ocean Worm Wriggles Back Into View after 140 Years

In 1873, an unknown species of deep-sea worm was dredged up from the bottom of the ocean. Further analysis showed that the animal, collected from almost 3.5 miles (5.5 kilometers) beneath the surface, turned out to be a new type of acorn worm. It was dubbed Glandiceps abyssicola.

For nearly 140 years, that was the last that humans would see of this type of acorn worm. Acorn worms are a group of animals that live on the seafloor eating pieces of sediment and detritus that float down from above. And the single specimen that was collected in 1873 by the HMS Challenger found its way to Germany, where it was destroyed by bombs in World War II.

Then, in 2009, a small chunk of yellow flesh turned up in a sample of sediment collected near the same spot as the original, in the equatorial Atlantic near South America. An anatomical and genetic study of the material, published last month in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, found that it was part of aGlandiceps abyssicola worm's body.

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