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Out on the Limb

A Fascination with the W E I R D

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I see the word "weird" and I first think...yeah, right. We'll just see how weird this is. I've been around a few decades (almost 5 if you must know). I'm posting the article below because...it's weird. (It's old news...from August 1, 2004)

No eyes / No stomachs / No mouths
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Researchers discover weird worms living on whale bones in bay
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Two strange new species of worms, without eyes or stomachs or even mouths, have been discovered living on the bones of dead whales in California's Monterey Bay.

"Who knows what we can learn here," researcher Robert Vrijenhoek said. "There are many things left to discover in this world. Some we find by accident ... and some we find because we look in places that few people have explored before, as in much of our work in the deep oceans."

Lead researcher Greg Rouse of the South Australian Museum added: "Deep-sea exploration continues to reveal biological novelties" such as this "remarkable" worm.

Vrijenhoek, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, Calif., said the worms, ranging from 1 inch to 2½ inches long, have colorful, feathery plumes that serve as gills and green "roots" that work their way into the bones of dead whales. Bacteria living in the worms digest the fats and oils in the whalebone.

The findings were reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"The worms provide insight into the cycling of carbon that reaches the bottom of the ocean. A dead whale delivers the equivalent of 2000 years of 'marine snow' drifting to the bottom ... where carbon is fixed into organic molecules," Vrijenhoek said. Marine snow is made up of bits of dead fish and other matter than settle to the floor of the sea, feeding many creatures there.

He added that the "worms turn whalebone lipids (fats) into worm eggs and larvae that are carried away from the carcass to produce new worms or to be eaten and dispersed by other animals. This discovery adds to the limited knowledge we have about what happens to organic carbon on the bottom of the ocean."
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Marine snow...Yum. I think I'll make some soup today.
posted by Deb, 11:57 AM

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