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Ocean Worm Species Not Seen for 140 Years Makes an Appearance

Image: Ocean Worm Species Not Seen for 140 Years Makes an Appearance

Tuesday, 27 Aug 2013 07:01 PM

By David Ogul

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A mysterious species of ocean worm not seen since it was first discovered in the deep sea 140 years ago has wiggled its way back into view, scientists are saying.

A worm specialist who co-authored a study revealing the finding says there really isn’t much mystery to why the worm hasn’t been seen since 1873: They are fragile and tend to fall apart when they are dredged from the deep, Karen Osborn bold LiveScience.

Typically, a dredging sled will run along the ocean floor, its chains knocking items into a net.

The acorn worm at the center of scientists’ attention, dubbed Glandiceps abyssicola, was dredged from almost 3.5 miles under the ocean floor when Ulysses S. Grant was starting to serve his second term as president. That was the last time the creature was seen until 2009, when a small sample of gunk turned up in a patch of sediment collected near the same spot as the original find in the equatorial Atlantic not far from South America. Further analysis showed it was, in fact, part of a Glandiceps abyssicola’s body.

The findings were recently published in the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.

The study that led to the latest revelation was led by Nicholas Holland, a researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, according to Discovery.com.

Osborn told LiveScience that deep-sea worms differ from the shallow-water variety in that they are less muscular and far less sturdy. Shallow water worms also tend to burrow and siphon food from the sea floor. The deep water worm crawls along the bottom of the ocean, eating pieces of nonliving organic material, such as waste or dead organisms.

“They are like little factories for digesting organic matter,” Osborn said.

Acorn worms are said to get their name from their proboscis, or nose, which resembles an acorn.

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World’s Biggest Fish: A 50-foot Prehistoric Beast Existed, Scientists Say

200-year-old Rockfish: Alaska Fish Could Be Oldest Creature Ever Caught

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