Aquatic and Land Animal Diversity


What are giant tube worms?

Giant tube worms were discovered near the hydrothermal (hot water) ocean vents in 1977 as the submersible Alvin was exploring the ocean floor of the Galapagos Ridge (located 1.5 miles [2.4 kilometers] below the Pacific Ocean surface). Growing to lengths of 5 feet (1.5 meters), Riftia pachyptila Jones, named after worm expert Meredith Jones of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, lack both mouth and gut and are topped with feathery plumes composed of over 200,000 tiny tentacles. The phenomenal growth of these worms is due to their internal food source— symbiotic bacteria, over one hundred billion per ounce of tissue, that live within the worms’ troposome tissues. To these tissues, the tube worms transport absorbed oxygen from the water, together with carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. Using this supply, the bacteria in turn produce carbohydrates and proteins that the worms need to thrive.


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