The Bobbit worm — Eunice Aphroditois — is an animal that you’ve probably never heard of — but that’s unfortunate for you, because it’s probably one of the most interesting animals in the world. You might assume that I’m exaggerating… but, read on…
A super-aggressive worm that can grow to be as large as ten feet long — one that is extremely fast and possesses extremely sharp teeth that it uses to sometimes even slice its prey clean in half. One that is covered in stinging bristles that cause permanent numbness to the area that is stung — permanent, as in you never get feeling in the area back. One that keeps its — sometimes very long body — buried in the sea floor nearly all of the time, simply popping its head/upper-body out to hunt.
You’ve got to admit, that is one interesting animal.
Some more information on the animal via Wikipedia:
Eunice aphroditois lives on the sea floor, typically at depths between 10-40 meters. It possesses five antennae which it uses for hunting — mostly smaller worms and fish. It catches its prey with “a complex feeding apparatus called a pharynx. The pharynx can turn inside-out, like glove fingers, and has strong, sharp mandibles on the end. Sometimes its prey is cut clean in half because of the speed and strength of E. aphroditois’ attacks, and it can inflict a nasty bite if a human gets too close. Once the prey is caught, this long-living nocturnal worm will shoot back into its burrow to feed. It also feeds off seaweed and other sea plants and when prey is scarce, will scavenge for morsels around the surface of its burrow. The species’ coloring ranges from a dark brown to a golden red, and has a stunning purple iridescence. Like in many other Eunice species, a white or pale ring runs around its forth body segment.”
The species is found throughout most of the world’s warmer regions, perhaps most commonly in the Indo-Pacific and the Atlantic.
“Little is known about the sexual habits and life span of this worm, but researchers hypothesize that sexual reproduction occurs at an early stage, maybe even when the worm is about 3.9 inches in length; this is very early, considering that these worms can grow to sizes of nearly 9.8 feet in some cases (although most observations point to a much lower average length of 3 ft 3 inches) and an average of 0.98 inches in diameter. A long lifespan may very well explain the size of these creatures.”
Back in March 2009, the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, Cornwall had an interesting experience when one of the worms found its way into a display tank:
The entire tank had to be emptied of its coral, rocks and plants, after the aquarium staff’s traps failed to turn up the culprit. After emptying the tank though, the meter-long E. aphroditois that had been chopping the coral up and killing its inhabitants was finally found.
The aquarium’s curator, Matt Slater, explained: “Something was guzzling our reef but we had no idea what. We also found an injured Tang Fish, so we laid traps, but they got ripped apart in the night. That worm must have obliterated the traps. The bait was full of hooks which he must have just digested.”
“Turns out the worm likely hitched a ride into the tank by hiding in a piece of coral when young, and secretly grew enormous over a number of years.”
Here’s a video of the worm ‘hunting’ (it also includes footage of a frog fish hunting):