Marine Biology

Marine Invertebrate Facts Giant Tube Worms

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Giant tube worms are marine invertebrates that can be found from a mile to several miles deep in the Pacific Ocean floor. They have not many predators because not many creatures live on the ocean floor. These worms have plumes that are retracted into their tubes when they feel threatened. This species of worm has no digestive tract. Bacteria makes up half of the worm's body weight. The unique worms can grow to a length of 4.9 feet in less than two years. Most other species of tube worms will grow slowly throughout their lifetime.

Giant tube worms use dissolved oxygen in the water to breathe. When the female releases eggs, the eggs will float upwards. The males sperm bundles swim to meet the eggs. Sunlight is not available on the ocean floor, so it cannot be a direct form of energy for these worms. These worms were discovered when researchers were exploring the deep Pacific Ocean floor. The worms survive by living near deep hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor. The temperature of the water in this area is near boiling.

What makes these marine invertebrates so unique is that they do not depend on sunlight for energy. Hydrothermal vents are also called black smokers. It is the tiny bacteria that provides them directly with the energy they need to survive. The Giant tube worms are related to the smaller species of tube worms that live in shallow waters. It is the bacteria that changes the chemicals from the vents into organic molecules. This is what provides the worms food. The bright red colors of the plume comes from the large amounts of hemoglobin in the blood.

The outer tubes of these worms are made from a substance called chitin. This is a very tough substance. Giant tube worms have no eyes. They only sense movements and vibrations. The depths of the vents where these creatures survive are located at a depth of about 5,000 feet. Shrimps and crabs live around them. The vent ecosystems on the bottom of the ocean floor are very fragile. When the Earth's crust shifts, then the chemicals that come from the vents can be shut off. When this happens, creatures that use these vents for survival, like the Giant tube worms will eventually die. Thriving vent sites that become cold is the cause of the vents being cut off by the shifting of the Earth's crust.

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