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 worms—nicknamed "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.
"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 fairly limited time on submersible vehicles, mainly off California, we've picked up seven new species. It goes to show that we have much more exploration ahead and who knows what else we'll discover?"
Each of the species features a variety of elaborate head appendages. Five of them are equipped with luminescent structures, the "bombs," that are fluid-filled spheres that suddenly burst into light when released by the animal, glowing intensely for several seconds before slowly fading.
Due to the bright lights of the submersible, scientists were not able to witness bomb-casting in the worm's natural habitat, but rather on ships after the animals were captured. While the scientists speculate that the bombs are used as a defensive mechanism against potential predators, more studies are needed to fully understand the process.Rouse says the green bombers in the newly discovered clade, (a common ancestor and all its descendant organisms), are fascinating from an evolutionary standpoint. Looking closely at their relatives that live on the seafloor, it appears the bombs were once gills that evolutionarily transformed over time.
Osborn continues to probe many of the various adaptations the worms have made since evolving into swimming species. The challenges faced by animals living in a three-dimensional open water habitat above the seafloor are very different than those faced by animals living on the seafloor. These include locating new food sources, finding ways to maintain optimal depth and grappling with predators that come from various directions.
"I'm interested in how animals have evolved in the water column," said Osborn. "These worms are great examples. How does a worm transform into a wonderful glowing animal?"
In addition to Osborn and Rouse, coauthors of the Science paper include Steven Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Fredrik Pleijel of the University of Göteborg in Sweden and Laurence Madin of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
The research was supported by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, NOAA, WHOI and the National Geographic Society.
Note to broadcast and cable producers: UC San Diego provides an on-campus satellite uplink facility for live or pre-recorded television interviews. Please phone or e-mail the media contact listed above to arrange an interview.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography: scripps.ucsd.edu
Scripps News: scrippsnews.ucsd.edu
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at UC San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. The National Research Council has ranked Scripps first in faculty quality among oceanography programs nationwide. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,300, and annual expenditures of approximately $155 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration.
Mario Aguilera | EurekAlert!
Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences