Weird Wildlife Wednesday: lol... butts
Meet the Pigbutt Worm
Species: C. pugaporcinus
It’s called the pigbutt worm, or the flying buttocks because…I shouldn’t have to explain it. The latin name Chaeopterous pugaporcinus roughly translates to “Chaetopterid worm that looks like the rump of a pig.”
C. pugaporcinus is found drifting 1km below the ocean surface. Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) marine biologists Karen Osborn and Greg Rouse discovered this creature and published their findings in 2007. These worms are unlike any other known adult worms, though they do share common characteristics with larvae of worms of the genus Chaaetopterus. While helpful for classification, this similarity yields more questions than answers as the worms are more than twice as large as any other chaetopterid larvae and also lack typical larval body parts. Adult chaetopterid worms however, have segmented bodies and live attached to the sea floor by a series of tubes. This worm instead floats along with an inflated middle section catch , surrounded by a cloud of mucus, presumably used to catch “marine snow,” or bits of dead organisms and fecal matter from fauna of shallower waters. Gross.
In the absence of sex organs, eggs or sperm, the researchers have not been able to determine whether the specimens pictured are larvae or adult worms. One theory they developed was that this larvae was swept off the continental shelf and therefore unable to settle to the bottom of the ocean which led to this strange development. To test this, the researchers placed a captured specimen in an aquarium lined with deep-sea floor rocks and sediment. The worm showed no interest in the bottom of the tank and continued to drift.
An alternate theory is that this worm is in the middle of a dramatic evolutionary change as it abandons on the sea floor for a new life floating below the oxygen minimum zone.
Other source: MBARI