a beautiful nightmare

A few weeks back I briefly mentioned the 'bobbit worm' – a rather large polychaete worm of scary appearance (a friend said 'nightmarish' was closer to the mark) and predatory habits. I've noticed on Facebook how interest in any particular subject seems to come in waves, and so it is with this creature. 

For via FB I've come to Matt Simon's interesting article – with Jenny Huang's rather lovely photo – on wiredscience.

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Image by Jenny Huang,via Wikimedia

A beautiful nightmare, then.

Apparently there's not a lot known about them in the wild, but these worms can be a right pain in the proverbial for aquarium keepers: bring in some coral for your tropical marine tank, & it's possible there's a little bobbit worm hiding in there, ready to come out & pick off your fish when it's feeling peckish. And growing bigger… up to 3 metres or more in length.

It's possible that, like other similar polychaetes, bobbit worms reproduce in a distinctly odd manner: at certain times of year the rear part of each worms body, packed with gametes, breaks off and swims upwards to the surface in a massive, mass mating swarm. Which leaves Simon with the opportunity for a truly excellent punch-line for his story:

Hate to leave you with the image of a beautiful tropical ocean swarming with sex-crazed 10-foot-long worms with hair-trigger jaws, but that's totally happening now.

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