By Hannah Henegar
The Bobbit Worm
The bobbit worm is an aquatic predatory polychaete worm dwelling at the ocean floor. An ambush predator, the sea worm buries its long body into an ocean bed composed of gravel, mud, or corals. Once it finds its hiding place, it waits for a stimulus to one of its five antennae, attacking when it senses prey. This killer sea worm is armed with sharp teeth. It is known to attack with such speed that its prey is sometimes sliced in half. The bobbit worms hunt for food, and is therefore carnivorous. The bobbit worm is found in warmer oceans around the world, including the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic
Eunicids (sea worms) inject a toxin in their prey, which stuns or kills it, such that prey much larger than the worm itself can be eaten and digested. This killer worm have toxic bristles up and down their body that can cause permanent nerve damage to anyone who touches them, and they feed by grabbing their prey with massive, strong jaws and sucking it down into the sand. Another family of polychaete worms, the fireworms, have harpoon-shaped chaetae (bristles) that release a toxin that can cause severe skin irritation, but in bobbit worms, the chaetae are used only for grip when crawling over sediment.
Little is known about the sexual habits and lifespan of this worm, but researchers hypothesize that sexual reproduction starts at an early stage, maybe even when the worm is about 100 mm (4 in) in length. This giant sea worm can grow to sizes of nearly 3 m (10 ft) in some cases. For comparison, the largest earthworm can grow to 9 ft. long. Australia’s Giant Gippsland earthworm is believed to be the world’s largest species of worm.
What is the difference between these worms and beach worms?
Beach worms can be found on many beaches in Australia, Victories, New South Wales and Queensland. There are several different types of beach worms found throughout these various regions including Stubbies/Stumpies, Slimies, Juvenile Beach Worms, King Beach Worms and Ugly Beach Worms. The pinkish worms are rather sensitive to their environment so there are a few beaches in the area that they do not call home.
Known for their length, these worms can grow up to 8 feet long. Their width varies but they can be as wide as a human finger. Although their appearance and size are often a bit unsettling when they are sighted by beachgoers, the beach worm is quite harmless. The worm spends most of its lifecycle in pursuit of food.
The worms spend a good deal of time under the sand. They are blind but it doesn’t really matter as they do not need sight to make their way around underground. They do have an excellent sense of smell which helps them find food and navigate through their environment.
Beach worms live in varying beach conditions; however, there are ideal conditions to look for when looking to catch the worms. Soft sand makes it easier to catch beach worms and there are likely to be more of them present than hard sand or sand full of shells. This is because the worms spend their lives under the sand and must move through it to find food. Soft sand makes this process easier.
In conclusion, the bobbit worm would make a horrible aquarium companion due to the fact that it is a fish eating fish. Make sure not to add these on your aquarium shopping list! If one of these guys ended up in your tank somehow, say goodbye to all of your little friends. If you come across one of these large creatures, make sure you do not come in contact with them or it could end badly.