New, deep, sexy worms

Photograph taken from National Geographic - courtesy MBARI ROV Tiburon

As this blog is ostensibly about evolution and sex (and pretty pictures), I should probably bring your attention to National Geographic’s photo gallery of some newly-discovered deep sea worms. These are enteropneusts, or acorn worms, and feed mostly in a similar way to earthworms – by swallowing mud from the sea floor, and extracting any tasty matter. However, some of these worms can also feed on material that is suspended in the water, using cilia to suck it into their mouth.

The cool thing about these recent discoveries is finding out how these worms have adapted for life in the deep ocean – the most striking feature being the ‘big lips’ that they use to get more food, and get it faster. Some are also able to create ‘mucous balloons’, enabling them to float upwards and get these big lips around some waterborne snacks!

Also, unlike earthworms, acorn worms belong to the phylum Hemichordata – meaning they are some of the closest living phylogenetic relatives of both chordates and other invertebrates. Evolutionarily speaking, they are more closely related to you and I than to the earthworms you’ll find in your back garden…

You may be wondering how any of this ties in with sex at all. Well, it doesn’t, really. It was more that the pictures in the photo gallery linked below makes them look like an array of rather horrifying sex toys. Enjoy!

Photos of newly-discovered deep sea worms

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