Sporting a bright fuchsia hue, this new species of acorn worm was recently found some 8,850 feet (2,700 meters) deep near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The colorful creature is one of more than 12 new species and at least 4 new genera of worms discovered during two recent deep-sea expeditions, scientists have confirmed.
The research has shed new light on acorn worms, formerly known as a homogeneous group called shallow-water burrowers, said Karen Osborn, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
"The shallow-water worms pretty much all look the same," said Osborn, who co-authored a new study—published November 16 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B—showing the worms live in deep waters worldwide.
"But at some point, one of these shallow-water guys got into deep water, and they've changed their morphology to deal with the unique challenges of that deep-sea habitat."
For instance, the deepwater worms have extremely long "lips" that help them snag prey in a place where food is scarce.
"So now we have this group of deep-sea species that look[s] totally different and behave[s] differently [than the shallow-water worms]—leaving their burrows behind."
(See pictures: "New 'Green Bomber' Sea Worms Fire Glowing Blobs.")