Meet the Squidworm

Dive into the deep ocean as we explore one of its most fascinating creatures: the squidworm

As you walk along the beach, taking in the calm waters, it’s hard to really understand how vast and complex the ocean is. While the ocean has been around for a whopping 3.8 billion years, there’s still so much we don’t know about it.

Far below the ocean’s surface lies something even more mysterious: the deep ocean. The deep ocean is one of Earth’s largest habitats and least understood places. Exploring this part of the ocean is difficult because of its remoteness and extreme conditions. Sunlight stops reaching the water at 3,280 feet below the ocean surface, leading to frigid cold temperatures that average just 39°F. The pressure at these depths can reach up to 110 times what we feel on land. 

Due to this unique environment, the deep ocean is home to an array of seemingly otherworldly species that have adapted to their rugged surroundings. Much of the life in the deep ocean has only recently been discovered, including a remarkable creature called the squidworm (Teuthidodrilus samae).

Just like its name suggests, the squidworm looks like a mix between squids and worms. It’s related to the earthworms you might see in your backyard. It has 25 pairs of white paddles for swimming and 10 squid-like limbs for touch and smell. The squidworm has a flat body about the size of the palm of your hand. 

Squidworms primarily feed on marine snow—things like plankton, fecal matter and dead/decaying organic material sinking from the upper layers of the ocean. Even though their diet might not seem super tasty to us, squidworms play a crucial role in marine research.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography discovered the squidworm in 2007 using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that dove about 9,500 feet into the Celebes Sea between the Philippines and Indonesia. The Celebes Sea is part of a region known as the Coral Triangle—considered by many researchers to be the epicenter of global marine diversity, housing a vast family of marine life. 

Scientists think squidworms might help connect deep-sea creatures to those higher up in the water. Studying squidworms could help us understand how other species in the Coral Triangle evolved and what unique traits they developed. Plus, finding squidworms suggests there are probably more unknown species waiting to be discovered in this part of the ocean.

Sadly, the deep ocean and its countless habitats, including the marine wildlife that depend on them, are under threat. That’s why Ocean Conservancy leads the charge against pollution by opposing the creation of new offshore oil and gas operations. These developments contribute to the climate crisis and put squidworms and other deep-sea species like blob sculpin, gulper eel, lizardfish and snailfish in danger.

Take action and help Ocean Conservancy continue to protect the ocean, the communities that depend on it, and its abundant marine life from the biggest problems we’re facing today. Together, we’ll work to find smart solutions to guarantee a healthy ocean for generations to come.

Our work is focused on solving some of the greatest threats facing our ocean today. We bring people, science and policy together to champion innovative solutions and fight for a sustainable ocean.
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