January 31, 2012

Have you ever seen a living creature that looks like this? This animal, captured and studied by scientists on an oceanlab in the Mid Atlantic Ocean, is a member of a recently discovered family of acorn worms (Torquaratoridae). 

Deep Sea Acorn Worms are delicate animals that have no eyes and no tail. They crawl along the ocean floor, leaving a spiral-shaped trail behind, burrowing into the sediment to find food that has fallen from the surface. Creatures like these used to be thought of as evolutionary "leftovers," because they failed to evolve and develop tails and become competent swimmers, like fish. It turns out, though, that they have evolved in just the right way to live in the distant depths of the ocean. We are discovering that acorn worms are some of the most common animals that live in the deep sea, alongside sea cucumbers, sea stars, shellfish and other fish. They have even been seen making a kind of swimming movement, lifting themselves off the ocean floor so that they can drift into areas where food is more plentiful.


Photo: David Shale

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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