Nature & Environment
Bizarre new worm species has one head and countless bodies
By T.K. Randall
January 31, 2022 · 1 comment
Not your average garden earthworm. Image Credit: M T Aguado / University of Gottingen
You've heard of worms that become two when cut in half, but what about worms with multiple bodies ?
The peculiar new species was discovered unexpectedly after researchers in Japan sent photographs to Prof Maria Teresa Aguado of the University of Gottingen in Germany.
A field trip later confirmed that the worms were living inside host sponges in the sea off Sado island.
"Having the chance to dive and collect animals in the island of Sado was really remarkable," said Aguado. "We were also quite lucky to find the animals the first day of diving."
Exhibiting an almost tree-like form, the species - which is a form of syllid marine worm - appears to grow its body out like branches, perhaps in response to the shape of the host sponge.
"The ramified bodies of the branching syllids might mirror the intricated labyrinth of the sponge canal system in which they live, the sponge canal system, with the ability to produce new fully-developed segments allowing the worm to explore the canals," the study reads.
It has been named Ramisyllis kingghidorahi
after Godzilla's multi-headed foe King Ghidorah.
"Scientists don't yet understand the nature of the relationship between the branching worm and its host sponge," said Aguado.
"And how do the worms manage to feed to maintain their huge bodies having just one tiny mouth in their single head?"
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