Scientists identified four species of deep-sea Elvis worm

Known officially as scale worms, the worms live on the seafloor at depths of 3,000 feet.

Elvis worms are native to deep-sea, chemosynthetic-based habitats. These worms are also known as scale worms.

A new study by the University of California and CNRS-Sorbonne Université wanted to determine the phylogenetic position of these worms using DNA sequences from a broad sampling of deep-sea polynoids.

Scientists named these worms as Elvis worms because their iridescent plated covered shells reminded them of Elvis’s sequined jumpsuits. Recently, they used genetics to characterize between four of the most common.

While doing so, they formally identified four species of Elvis worms: Peinaleopolynoe goffrediae, P. mineoi, P. orphanage, and P. elvisi. All these species live on the seafloor at depths of 3,000 feet.

The first species was named in honor of a noted marine biologist, the second after the father of one of the researchers. This man paid for the research effort; the third was named for a noted geobiologist and the fourth for the famous singer.

Using a remotely operated vehicle, scientists collected some specimens of each species from the bottom of the ocean. This allowed them to study in the lab.

The scientists noticed that the worms live in water that is unreasonably deep for light to penetrate; accordingly, other creatures that may live down there with them would not have the option to see their shiny, purple, blue and pink iridescent shells, nor would they have the option to see one another—they have no eyes.

This brings up the question of why we have a colorful shell. The scientists couldn’t respond to that question, however, propose that there might be specialty bioluminescent creatures that seek them out. They additionally note that they were puzzled by notches on the worms’ shells until they captured video of two of them fighting, which included dancing jigs in-between dashing over to whittle down an opponent’s shell.

Journal Reference:
  1. Avery S. Hatch, Hungry scale worms: Phylogenetics of Peinaleopolynoe (Polynoidae, Annelida), with four new species. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.932.48532

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