Another giant worm: This is as friendly as they get.
Another giant worm: This is as friendly as they get.Courtesy Santheo
OMG! Friday already? Where did the week go? You know how it is: it’s Sunday, and you’re testing items in your refrigerator for freshness… and the next thing you know, it’s Friday, and you’re lying on the floor in front of the fridge! It makes one wonder if he should seriously reevaluate his life.

What’s worse (worst!) is that I almost missed a Friday Extravaganza. Think about the repercussions—I could be rereading my own posts some time in the future, and I would wonder why I skipped an extravaganza. Did I just get bored with them? Was something wrong at the time? A personal crisis? I wouldn’t know what happened! I don’t want that. So an extravaganza…

It works out pretty well actually, because the first think I thought when I lifted my head off the floor and looked into the open refrigerator was, “worms.” And this week just happened to be a slightly wormy week in the news. A slightly giant-wormy week.

Check it out, y’all: Giant sand worms!

Apparently, back in olden times (the Permian period, before the dinosaurs), there used to be 3-foot-long, six-inch wide worms! The reason we don’t have cool giant worm skeletons in our museums, of course, is that worms don’t have skeletons. And all that soft, wormy tissue doesn’t fossilize very well at all. (That’s why it’s such a big deal when we find ”mummified” dinosaurs too—soft tissue almost always rots before it can fossilize.) Short of the rare cases where soft tissue does fossilize, there are other ways to find evidence of soft, extinct animals. In this case, paleontologists found the worm’s fossilized burrow. How about that?

The articles I found didn’t provide a lot of details about the worm, except that it was big, lived underground (and underground worm?!? What?!) in part of what is now England, and it’s a completely new species. Giant arthropods (like huge millipedes) had been known to live millions of years ago, but nothing like this huge worm.

Three-foot worms… yuckers. Good thing we don’t have anything like that around today, am I right?

Wrong!! Wrong wrong wrong! This is an EXTRAVAGANZA, y’all, and would never stop with just one worm during an extravaganza! So put this in your brain and shake it: There are giant worms alive today, and they’re way, way worse than you think!


See, I would have gone on living without knowing about the giant worms among us, if I hadn’t seen this little article about how a creature wreaking havoc on a British aquarium. (It’s a Friday Giant British Worm Extravaganza, I guess.) Something was chewing apart the coral in the aquarium, and devouring its fish. The aquarium staffers tried to trap the culprit, and to fish it out with bait. The traps, however, were torn apart overnight, and the baited fishing line was bitten through. In the end, they resorted to dismantling the artificial reef. Underneath all the rocks, they found a four-foot-long reef worm!

Whoa! Four feet? That beats the prehistoric worm even!

But, come on now… we humans are prone to exaggeration. The worm couldn’t be that impressive right?

No. Wrong.

I couldn’t find anything about “giant sea worms,” but searching for “reef worm” brought up the term “bristle worm.” And “bristle worm” makes sense, because the article described the worm as having bizarre-looking jaws, and thousands of bristles, each of which are able to inflict a sting that results in “permanent numbness.”

Then I found this page, which informed me that bristle worms are complex creatures, with “two to four pairs of eyes, sensory organs, a mouth, and a brain.” (I’ll let you know right now—I don’t approve of worms having brains.) And, yes, they have bristles, which can inflict extremely painful stings. The article doesn’t say anything about the bristles being poisonous, but posits that the painful sting could be caused by calcium carbonate or silica from the bristles. This page confirmed that the worms can hitch rides on rocks into aquariums, where they grown quickly, and can become a nuisance (to say the least, I guess).

Wikipedia was the next step, of course. Wikipedia teaches us that the worms will wait buried in sand or gravel until prey swims along. The worm will then attack with such speed that the prey is sometimes sliced in half by its claws/jaws. And while an average size for the worm is about 3 feet, they have been known to grow up to nine-feet-long!

What? What kind of world is this?

Also… this particular type of bristle worm is referred to as a “Bobbit worm.” What’s that all about? I’ll tell you: according to this site, at least, Bobbit worms are so nicknamed for the fact that, after mating, female worms will often “attacks the male’s penis and feeds it to her young.” That’s right, you remember now: Bobbit.

(It occurs to me that the timing in this anecdote is a little off—exactly how would you feed the penis to your young immediately after mating? But whatever.)

Oh, man. Worm extravaganza.

See? See the Bobbit worm?

Sure, it’s fish now. Next time it could be (will be) you. Happy weekend.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This is so cool! I want to do it sometime. I bet that my horses would get a great scare. Rock on!

posted on Sat, 03/21/2009 - 1:06pm
Harry Pitts's picture
Harry Pitts says:

I really enjoyed this blog! Those are some big worms! WOW! I think it'd be neat to see one :)

posted on Sat, 03/21/2009 - 1:08pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

that is really cool

posted on Sat, 03/21/2009 - 1:14pm
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Rauffella palmipes: Trace fossil of feeding burrows from Late Ordovician worms found in Decorah shale exposures in and around the Twin Cities. The fossil trilobite in the upper right is a rolled-up specimen found in the same fossiliferous rock unit.
Rauffella palmipes: Trace fossil of feeding burrows from Late Ordovician worms found in Decorah shale exposures in and around the Twin Cities. The fossil trilobite in the upper right is a rolled-up specimen found in the same fossiliferous rock unit.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Giant prehistoric worms used to live right here in Minnesota more than 450 million years ago, during the Ordovician period, and you can find fossil evidence of them not far from the Science Museum of MN. Okay, maybe they weren't giant compared to us but they must have looked humongous from a typical trilobite's point of view (see photo). The trace fossils known as Rauffella palmipes are thought to be the feeding burrows left by worms that lived in the shallow tropical sea that once covered this part of Minnesota. Not much is really known about them but evidence of their existence can be found in many Decorah shale exposures in and around the Twin Cities area.

posted on Mon, 03/23/2009 - 10:39am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

the worm in the video is a Eunicid worm.
here is a link to a rather large one that was removed from an marine aquarium.
they get quite large in the wild
have 5 antenna and jaws that are vertical

posted on Tue, 04/28/2009 - 11:11am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Great link! Thanks! More fuel for the irrational fear of giant worms I'm developing.

And, yeah, I only just realized that I never actually said what kind of worm it was—I only used nicknames. Eunicid. Yes.

posted on Tue, 04/28/2009 - 1:19pm

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