Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Its a squid, its a worm, its a squidworm!

The Celebes Sea is a deep basin (approx. 6200 m) located between the Philippines and Indonesia, at the center of the Coral Triangle. Since its formation in the Eocene (44-42 million years ago) it has been isolated from surrounding deep water by relatively shallow sills. Due to density differences in the water in this basis in relation to the water around it, the water is thought to have long residence times. This area is considered to be a biodiversity hotspot because of the high diversity and endemism of shallow-water corals and fishes as well as being the center of geographical distributions and diversity of lanternfish, hatchetfish, dragonfish, and anglerfish. Considering the high diversity of these shallow water creatures it stands to reason that the deep water fauna may be equivalently diverse even though animal density typically decreases with increasing ocean depth. Finding and studying the creatures found that these depths can be very difficult as they are few and far between and because it is just plain difficult to get down that far.

Meet Teuthidodrilus samae, the squidworm:

This is a new and unusual genus and species of swimming polychaete (marine annelid or segmented worms) recently described in a paper in Biology Letters. T. samae belongs to Acrocirridae as a member of the swimming clade and sister to the "bomb"-bearing clade. As you can see from the picture, it sports a series of 10 large appendages near its head. Hence the likeness to a squid. It is slow moving and found in these very deep waters, and it is likely that similar species can be found in this unique region of the ocean.

Osborn, Karen J., Laurence P. Madin, and Greg W. Rouse (2010) The remarkable squidworm is an example of discoveries that await in deep-pelagic habitats. Biology Letters: published online. (DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0323)

Here's the ScienceShot:

(Image Credit: Laurence Madin/WHOI, image from ScienceShot via Science Magazine)

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