Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17, 2010 : Giant Tube Worm

Giant Tube Worm

They have a highly vascularized, red "plume" at the tip of their free end which is an organ for exchanging compounds with the environment (e.g., H2S, CO2, O2, etc). The tube worm does not have many predators, as few creatures live on the sea bottom at such depths. If threatened, the plume may be retracted into the worm's protective tube. The plume provides essential nutrients to bacteria living inside a specialized organ within its body (i.e., trophosome) as part of a symbiotic relationship. They are remarkable in that they have no digestive tract, but the bacteria (which may make up half of a worm's body weight) turn oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, etc. into organic molecules on which their host worms feed. This process, known as chemosynthesis, was first recognized by Colleen Cavanaugh while she was a graduate student at Harvard.

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