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!
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences