Strange new Squidworm could be a 'missing link'


Scientists for the Census of Marine Life have uncovered a bizarre new species that may represent the missing link between species that reside solely in the seafloor's mud and those that live only in the water column.

The new animal is highly unusual, it looks a bit like a squid and a bit like a worm so the scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the University of California, Santa Cruz have christened it the ‘Flamboyant squid worm’. It was first discovered in 2007 but has only now been officially described and named.

The worm is brown and black and measures 9cm long. It has eight arms used for breathing - each as long as the worm's entire body - at the front of its body and two long, loosely coiled appendages employed for feeding. It also has six pairs of feathery sensory organs on its head and along the length of its body, the worm has iridescent pink "paddles" for propulsion.

It was discovered by a remotely operated submersible surveying at depths between 1.2 to 1.8 miles below the surface, in the basin between Indonesia and the Philippines  of the Celebes Sea and was therefore given the Latin name Teuthidodrilus samae, or "squid worm of the Sama"— the Sama being a culture with ties to Philippine islands not far from the discovery site.

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Woods Hole Marine biologist Laurence Madin said: "When the image came onto the screen, everyone said, Oh my gosh, what's that?"

Karen Osborn the paper’s co-author agrees it was certainly highly unusual but was surprised at how many of these worms there were. She added: "Finding large abundant animals like this in the deep water column shows us how much we don't know about what's down there. Just imagine all the other things that could be down there."

For more information see: The remarkable squidworm is an example of discoveries that await in deep-pelagic habitats Karen J. Osborn, Laurence P. Madin, Greg W. Rouse. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0923