Glowing Marine Worms

Swima bombiviridis and Bioluminescent Bombs

In August 2009 the discovery of five new deep-sea swimming worms was announced in Science. The excellent swimmers were found at depths between 2000 and 3500m. The reason they have a page devoted to them on this web site is the fact that they have 4 pairs of appendages that look like little water balloons. When they are threatened the worms release their balloons, which promptly light up changing them into green bioluminescent bombs that are too small to scare any predators, but that are sure to distract them in the dark depths of their ocean habitat. The worms have been named Swima bombiviridis (Latin for swimming bomb droppers?) – proof that scientists have a sense of humor. The bombs are 2mm across and are made from modified gills. Todate we do not know the composition of the bioluminescent fluid that glows green for about a minute. Perhaps its a luciferase/fluorescent protein combination similar to that found in the jellyfish.

Photograph courtesy Casey Dunn