In Taiwan, A Fisherman Catches a Radioactive Green Worm and Scientists Are Left Stymied

by Owen James Burke

worm

Screenshot: 簡偉丞’s YouTube video.

This sluggish-looking, radioactive green specimen is a member of the wide-ranging phylum Nemurtea. There are over 1,000 species of Nemurtea. Most, like this individual, are relatively small, but they have been known to grow to lengths of nearly 200 feet.

The one pictured above, which scientists have yet to name, is on the smaller side, may be about a yard long. Still, small species, generally parasitic, are not even a centimeter long.

Wei Cheng Jian was fishing on Penghu, a Taiwanese island that lies in the China Strait.

This worm looks like some of the candy in tube-form that they used to sell in the 1990s. Whether or not it’s as toxic is still up for debate. The gelatinous-looking pink thing that protrudes and recedes from the worm’s posterior is its tongue, or proboscis (like a butterfly’s or a bee’s), only it contains poison, which it uses to actively hunt. Believe it or not, prey for some ribbon worms include crustaceans like fiddler crabs. The worm slips its proboscis into whatever tiny crack it can find in the crab’s shell and pumps it full of its toxic cocktail, cracking the shell open so the worm can eat it from the inside out.

Read more about ribbon worms on The Smithsonian. -OJB

 

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