The Giant Tubeworm

Feature Photo

Giant Tubeworm:: Feature Photo
Flowers of the Abyss - The Giant Tubewom

One of the strangest creatures we've met on our travels is the giant tubeworm, Riftia pachyptila. These iconic residents of the deep-sea hydrothermal vent ecosystem live clustered around black smokers in colonies of hundreds, or even thousands of individuals.

Wonderfully alien in apprearance, these worms lack a mouth and a gut, yet grow to extraordinary sizes - some of them are nearly 10 feet long. Their bright red plume absorbs chemicals from the fluids pouring from the black smoker chimney, and these are used as an energy source by symbiotic bacteria within the tubeworm.  In return for a safe home, the bacteria provide the tube worm with sustenance.

A close relative of the giant tubeworm is the Jericho worm, Tevnia jerichonana, which has a beautiful scarlet plume, like a flower. Giant tubeworms and Jericho worms are found in the deep Pacific, where they
live in close association with other vent creatures like vent crabs, squat lobsters and vent octopuses.

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