Deep Sea Elvis Worms: New Species with Glittery Looks
April 4, 2021
- Polynoidae is a family of worms found in saltwater, and they are known as scale worms.
- The family Polynoidae has five branchiate genera namely Branchipolynoe, Branchinotogluma, Branchiplicatus, Peinaleopolynoe, and Thermopolynoe.
- All of the genera are native to deep-sea, chemosynthetic-based habitat.
- Branchiate organisms are animals furnished with gills.
- Chemosynthetic habitat is an environment where sunlight is not able to reach and living organisms synthesize organic compounds from the reaction involving inorganic chemicals to get their energy.
- Peinaleopolynoe has two known species namely Peinaleopolynoe sillardi and Peinaleopolynoe santacatalina.
- Researchers aimed to assess the phylogenetic position of Peinaleopolynoe by studying DNA sequences from a broad sampling of deep-sea polynoids.
- Several species from all five branchiate genera were used in the analyses.
- Phylogenetic analyses revealed that four new species of Peinaleopolynoe from the Pacific Ocean have been discovered.
- The new deep-sea dwellers display iridescent scales which look like Elvis’ iconic jumpsuits hence, they named them Elvis worms.
- Additionally, researchers observed the presence of ventral papillae on segments 12-15 which reinforced the monophyletic groupings of Peinaleopolynoe.
- The results also demonstrated the paraphyletic groupings of Branchinotogluma and Lepidonotopodium and that these genera require taxonomic revision.
- Researchers apply the subfamily name Lepidonotopodinae for the clade comprised of Branchipolynoe, Branchinotogluma, Bathykurila, Branchiplicatus, Lepidonotopodium, Levensteiniella, Thermopolynoe, and Peinaleopolynoe.
- The researchers do not know why Elvis worms evolved to have such glittery scales since the organisms live in a very dark environment.
- They speculated that it could be just a side effect of developing thicker scales over time which refract more light.
- Researchers also said that thicker scales are advantageous when it comes to fighting and survival.
Hatch AS, Liew H, Hourdez S, Rouse GW (2020) Hungry scale worms: Phylogenetics of Peinaleopolynoe (Polynoidae, Annelida), with four new species. ZooKeys 932: 27-74. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.932.48532
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