In the latest proof that the oceans continue to offer remarkable findings and much of their vastness remains to be explored, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and their colleagues have discovered a unique group of worms that live in the depths of the ocean.
The discoveries feature wormsnicknamed "green bombers"that can release body parts that produce a brilliant green bioluminescent display.
The discovery is described in the August 21 issue of the journal Science and is led by Karen Osborn of Scripps Oceanography.
The researchers introduce seven previously unknown species of swimming worms in the annelid phylum ranging from 18 to 93 millimeters (.7 to 3.6 inches) in length. They were discovered by the scientists using remotely operated vehicles at depths between 1,800 and 3,700 meters (5,900 and 12,140 feet). The first species described in the paper has been given the scientific name Swima bombiviridis, referring to its swimming ability and the green bombs.
Osborn says one key aspect of the discoveries is that the newly found worms are not rare. Opportunities to witness such animals and collect and study them, however, have been extremely rare.
"We found a whole new group of fairly large, extraordinary animals that we never knew anything about before," said Osborn, a post-doctoral researcher in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps. "These are not rare animals. Often when we see them they number in the hundreds. What's unique is that their habitat is really hard to sample."
Largely transparent except for the gut area, the worms propel themselves with fans of long bristles that form swimming paddles.
"The depths between 1,000 and 4,000 meters (3,280 and 13,120 feet) form the biggest habitat on Earth and also the least explored," said Scripps Professor Greg Rouse, a coauthor of the paper and curator of Scripps Benthic Invertebrate Collection. "With f
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University of California - San Diego