A newly discovered species of deep sea worm—nicknamed “green bombers”—can release body parts that produce a brilliant green bioluminescent display. Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and their colleagues have discovered a unique group of worms that live in the depths of the ocean. Five of these species appear to cast off glowing bombs intended to throw off fish on the lookout for dinner.
Researchers describe the bizarre "Swima worms" in Science journal.
The creatures, which the scientists say could be widespread in the deep sea, indicate the extent of biodiversity yet to be discovered in the oceans.
Lead author Karen Osborn, from the University of California San Diego, told BBC News that she and her colleagues found the worms accidentally, whilst exploring the deep oceans with remotely operated submersible vehicles.
"It was very exciting to see them and realize that they were very different from species we've seen before," said lead researcher Karen Osborn of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. "We think they're using the little bombs as decoys to escape predators."
Liberating part of one's body as an escape tactic is rare, but not unheard of, Osborn said. Some squid and brittle stars (which are similar to starfish) have been known to cast off an arm to avoid being eaten.
In this case, the balloon bombs seem to be made of modified gill parts, and only glow once they are ejected from the worms, apparently to distract predators' attention.