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!
22.02.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Separate brain systems cooperate during learning, study finds
22.02.2018 | Brown University
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
22.02.2018 | Life Sciences
22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences