The deep sea has once again revealed one of its many secrets, this time unveiling an intriguing new annelid, Teuthidodrilus samae, a.k.a squidworm. This unique creature was caught in 2007 at the western Celebes sea, a body of water surrounded by the Philippines to the north, Malaysia to the west and Indonesia to the south and also part of the coral triangle, an area of high diversity and endemicity of shallow water corals and fishes (Allen, 2008) and unique geological history recently identified as a Marine Protected Area.
This unique polychaete is also referred to as the squidworm because of the layout of its anatomy. A close look at the following pictures would help understand this. On the left is the common European squid (Loligo vulgaris) and on the right, we have the squidworm (T. samae). T. samae has chaetigers (segments bearing chaetae) that resemble the squid mantle, while its 4 pairs of branchiae, long blue or purplish-blue protuberances that are used for respiration and a pair of palps, elongated appendages whose functions include sensation, locomotion and feeding could easily be taken to represent tentacles and arms.
“the discovery of this genus is an example of the type of discoveries we can anticipate with continued exploration of the least known and largest habitat on earth, the deep water column.”
Karen Osborn, author of a recently published paper in Biology letters credited the discovery of this animal to the use of modern, versatile and mobile ROVs who are able to sneak up to these free swimming animals and catch them by suction. Without ROVs, the chances of capturing animals like these were much less as traditional sampling techniques were designed to collect either benthic (living on the seafloor) or pelagic (living in the water column) animals and often free swimming animals like these would escape collection devices towed on the seafloor or mid water nets that are not towed near the seafloor at great depths because of the risks involved (Robinson, 2004).
According to Karen, the discovery of this genus is an example of the type of discoveries we can anticipate with the continued exploration of the least known and largest habitat on earth, the deep water column.
Allen, G. R. 2008 Conservation hotspots of biodiversity and endemism for Indo-Pacific coral reef fishes. Aquat. Conserv. mar. Freshw. Ecosyst. 18, 541-556 (doi: 10.1002/aqc.880)
Osborn, Karen J., Madin, Laurence P., Rouse, Greg W. 2010 The remarkable squidworm is an example of discoveries that await in the deep-pelagic habitats Biol. Let. (doi: 10. 1098/rsbl.2010.0923
O’Luanaiagh, Cian 2010 Deep-sea punk worm sucks on marine snow
Robinson, B. H. 2004 Deep pelagic biology J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 300, 253-272 (doi: 10.1007/s10750-004.2653-9)