Sunday, 22 May 2016

Learn about The Spaghetti Worm with Jenna Martin!

Loimia medusa, also known as the Medusa Worm or the Spaghetti Worm, is a sedentary, segmented worm that is a member of the Phylum Annelida. Each part, or segment, of the worms' body is made up of primarily the same organs and structures. Most of the 5-6 inch long body of the Spaghetti Worm is below the surface sediment tucked away in a tube. Usually the only part of the worm that is seen are their spaghetti-like tentacles that can grow up to a meter in length, which is where they get their unique name. Each of these tentacles is lined with cilia that collect food in the form of organic detritus and pass it back to the mouth. If larger organic food is found the tentacles will wrap around it and pull it back to the mouth, and if for some reason a tentacle is eaten or is detached they can be regenerated.

These cool looking creatures are found in shallower waters around the world. We were able to see many of them at the snorkeling sites visited during our stay a the Keys Marine Lab this past week such as Koch key, Old Sweat Bank, and Long Key Point. In shallower waters it was somewhat easy to spot out Loimia medusa because you would see neon blue, noodle-like appendages moving about on the seafloor. If you followed the tentacles back you would find the worm itself, usually somewhat tucked away among the seagrass or between corals with multiple extensions moving in different directions. Although the Spaghetti Worms that we saw in the Florida Keys had tentacles that were blue in color, there are several other colors that can be seen in these species that range from clear to orange. 

I chose to look up more about these worms because of their vibrant color, and because of their mysterious look. I have been to the Florida keys many times, and I remember the first time I saw these weird squiggly things on the sea floor out of the corner of my eye. Luckily enough I was on a class trip and my professor was able to explain to me what they were and what I was seeing. Since then I always look forward to snorkeling and seeing these creatures spaghetti-like tentacles moving about the seafloor, searching for food and bringing a pop of color to the area.
Photo Credit: Josh Voss

Another type of Spaghetti Worm outside of its tube.
Photo Credit: Life Force Magazine

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