Wei Cheng Jian from Taiwan caught something green and more valuable than most fish – ribbon worm footage. The viral video is forcing the world to learn about this strange animal. Researchers have discovered a plethora of amazing facts about the creatures.
Despite its strange appearance, the journal’s experts say it’s harmless (to humans), but it is large.
Zoologist John McDermott explained, “This type of worm could be two meters, about six feet, long.”
As for the odd pink appendage oozing from the ribbon worm, it’s called a proboscis.
The proboscis is used to capture prey. The creature compresses its body to shoot out the sticky tongue-like organ, which will then wrap around prey, such as sea slugs or clams, and then engulf the victim whole.
Wei Cheng Jian’s find was impressive enough, but there are 1,100 different species of ribbon worms, and many have even more unusual traits.
For example, size.
The largest known kind of ribbon worm, the bootlace worm or Lineus longissimus, is believed to be the longest creature on Earth. According to the Smithsonian, they are known to get as large as 60 meters (197 feet) long – about the length of about four typical school buses lined end to end.
Despite the length, the bootlace worm is only an inch around.
Ribbon worms can be tiny too. The smallest is less than a centimeter long.
Of course, those sizes aren’t totally set for the invertebrate worms. Like the creature in the video above, the ribbon worm can use its muscles to contract its entire body to shrink or grow according to the dangers around it.
That contraction also helps with consuming prey, which can sometimes be three to four times fatter than the worm itself.
Like common earthworms, ribbon worms also have amazing regenerative abilities. If a nemertean is severed on any part of its body, it will result in a new worm.
Some of the most interesting tidbits are about the creature’s proboscis.
The Huffington Post reports that some of the pink appendages are sticky, but others have a sharp point called a stylet used to harpoon prey. Other species have suckers on their proboscis, like an octopus. Some ribbon worms use the organ to inject toxins into prey.
As shown in the video, the creatures are also slimy. The mucus that coats the creature is used to slide through rocks and mud on the sea floor and keep the worms from drying out in the open air. The same substance makes them incredibly hard to hold onto.
Then again, there are not many reasons to catch a ribbon worm – most are poisonous to eat.
In the end, the interesting video shot in Taiwan is a rare excuse to learn about ribbon worms, and maybe have a few nightmares too.
[Image Credit: Henry Kaiser/Wikimedia Commons]