Herring gull and worms video


This 28 March 2017 video is about a herring gull trying to catch worms by trampling on the ground.

Cor Huijgens in the Netherlands made this video.

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Three new flatworm species discovered in Brazil


This video says about itself:

Huge flatworm (Platyhelminthes) on the move

16 August 2009

We discovered this flatworm on one of our nightly walks in the jungle of Itatiaia National Park in Brazil.

From Phys.org:

Hidden diversity: 3 new species of land flatworms from the Brazilian Araucaria forest

January 9, 2017

A huge invertebrate diversity is hidden on the forest floor in areas of the Araucaria moist forest, Brazil. Land flatworms constitute a numerous group among these invertebrates occurring in the Neotropical region. Flatworms are considered to be top predators within the soil ecosystem, preying on other invertebrates.

The Araucaria moist forest is part of the Brazilian Atlantic Rain Forest and is considered a hotspot of land flatworm diversity, harboring many yet undescribed species. A study recently published in the open access journal ZooKeys describes three new species from areas covered by Araucaria moist forest in South Brazil, which belong to the Neotropical genus Cratera.

Land flatworms lack a water retention mechanism and have a low tolerance to intense changes in temperature and humidity. Their low vagility leads to the existence of a high number of endemic species. Thus, they are considered good bioindicators of the degree of impact on their habitat.

The new species are named after characteristics of their color pattern and are probably endemic for the study areas. Besides differing from each other, as well as from other species of the genus, by their characteristic color pattern, they also show other distinguishing features in the reproductive system. The study provides an identification key to the species of the genus.

The work was conducted by the south Brazilian research group on triclads, led by Dr. Ana Leal-Zanchet, of the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS), in southern Brazil. The study was supported by the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq).

Flatworms in the Netherlands: here.

Flatworms that spent five weeks aboard the International Space Station are helping researchers scientists study how an absence of normal gravity and geomagnetic fields can have anatomical, behavioral, and bacteriological consequences, according to a paper. The research has implications for human and animal space travelers and for regenerative and bioengineering science: here.

Acorn worms, new research


This video says about itself:

29 November 2016

What if humans could regrow an amputated arm or leg, or completely restore nervous system function after a spinal cord injury?

A new study of one of our closest invertebrate relatives, the acorn worm, reveals that this feat might one day be possible. Acorn worms burrow in the sand around coral reefs, but their ancestral relationship to chordates means they have a genetic makeup and body plan surprisingly similar to ours.

Read more here.

From Science News in the USA:

These acorn worms have a head for swimming

Putting off trunk development may make catching prey easier, researchers say

By Emily DeMarco

10:00am, January 3, 2017

Certain marine worms spend their larval phase as little more than a tiny, transparent “swimming head.” A new study explores the genes involved in that headfirst approach to life.

A mud flat in Morro Bay, Calif., is the only known place where this one species of acorn worm, Schizocardium californicum, is found. After digging up the creatures, Paul Gonzalez, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Stanford University, raised hordes of the larvae at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Because a larva and an adult worm look so different, scientists wondered if the same genes and molecular machinery were involved in both phases of development. To find out, Gonzalez and colleagues analyzed the worm’s genetic blueprint during each phase, they report online December 8 in Current Biology.

Genes linked to trunk development were switched off during the larval phase until just before metamorphosis. Instead, most of the genes switched on were associated with head development, Gonzalez says.

The larvae hatch from eggs laid on the mud. When tides flood the area, the squishy, gel-filled animals use hairlike cilia to swim upwards to devour bits of algae. “They’re feeding machines,” Gonzalez says. He speculates that being balloon-shaped noggins, rather than wriggling noodles, may help the organisms float and feed more efficiently.

After about two months of gorging at the algae buffet, the larvae, which grow to roughly 2 millimeters across, transform and sink back into the muck. There, they eventually grow a body that can stretch up to about 40 centimeters.

Kestrel eats worm, video


In this 30 January 2016 video from Biesbosch national park in the Netherlands, a female kestrel eats a worm.

More on this is here.

Giant worms discovery on Scottish island


This video from Scotland says about itself:

Giant worms the size of SNAKES are discovered by scientists on abandoned Scottish island

18 January 2016

Researchers says the creatures are three to four times bigger than the average worm and ‘slightly spooky’.

From Wildlife Extra:

Giant worms discovered on remote Scottish island

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares – giant earthworms that, if left alone, keep growing and growing to the size of a baby snake. But this is no bad dream – scientists working on the Isle of Rum, off the coast of Scotland, have found the biggest specimens ever seen in the UK, more than three times the length and weight of a normal worm.

The exceptionally large invertebrates measure up 40 cm (1.3 ft) long, having blossomed due to rich soil and a lack of predators. They’re similar in size to a newly-hatched adder.

In an interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Dr Kevin Butt, lead researcher on the earthworm study, carried out by the University of Central Lancashire, said: “These things weigh about twelve and a half grams – but the normal size for these things is about four to five grams.”

The worms, Latin name Lumbricus terrestris, were found at Papadil, an abandoned settlement on Rum, which is home to a tiny population of around 30 people.

“When these things came out of their burrows they were like small snakes,” he said.

However, far from being the stuff of nightmares, Dr Butt told the Telegraph the existence of the worms was “a delight” to discover as they are crucial to the ecosystem, and help lessen the risk of flooding.

“Without their activities we’d be a lot worse off. They’re just as important as bees are in pollinating plants. They help aerate the soil and drain away water and stop surface erosion,” he explained.

Dr Butt believes the Rum worms are bigger than average due to their remote, undisturbed location, with good quality soil. Rum also lacks predators such as badgers, moles, hedgehogs and foxes which would usually gobble the worms before they had chance to grow into monsters. Unlike most animals, which stop growing once they reach an adult size, earthworms keep on growing if left alone.

“These things have just have been left and have grown bigger and bigger,” explained Dr Butt, who has been studying earthworms for around 30 years.

Asked if an enthusiastic schoolboy might be able to achieve a similarly giant specimen by looking after it at home, he confirmed this is possible.

“In the laboratory we can keep them and feed them well and in a matter of a couple of years you can grow them to 15, even 20 grams,” he said.

However, those spooked by the idea of giant worms have little to fear if they visit Rum.

“If they feel footsteps they will just go down deeper into the earth. They’re not going to jump out and grab people,” he said.

News of the Papadil worms is contained in a paper recently published in The Glasgow Naturalist journal.

From giant rats to dwarf elephants, island living changes mammals. Island mammals evolve differently from those on the mainland – which can be clearly seen in fossils such as the giant ‘terror shrew’ or dwarf hippopotamus: here.

Cambrian fossil spiky worm discovery


Illustration showing the many legs and spikes covering the early Cambrian creature, Collinsium ciliosum. Credit: Javier Ortega-Hernández

From LiveScience:

Armored Spiky Worm Had 30 Legs, Will Haunt Your Nightmares

by Laura Geggel, Staff Writer

June 29, 2015 03:00pm ET

A spiky, wormlike creature with 30 legs — 18 clawed rear legs and 12 featherlike front legs that likely helped it filter food from the water — once lived in the ancient oceans of the early Cambrian period, about 518 million years ago, a new study finds.

The critter is one of the first known animals on Earth to develop protective armor and to sport specialized limbs that likely helped it catch food, the researchers said. This newfound species lived during the Cambrian explosion, a time of rapid evolutionary development, they said.

“It’s a bit of a large animal for this time period,” said one of the study’s lead researchers, Javier Ortega-Hernández, a research fellow in paleobiology at the University of Cambridge. “The largest specimen is just under 10 centimeters [4 inches], which, for a wormy thing, is quite mighty.” [See Images of the Spiky Worm & Other Cambrian Creatures]

The creature likely used its rear clawed legs to anchor to sponges or other penetrable surfaces, and waved its feathery front limbs to and fro in the current to catch nutrients in the water, Ortega-Hernández said. This technique is still used by modern animals, such as bamboo shrimp, that capture passing meals with their fanlike forearms.

But, because the Cambrian critters were “soft and squishy,” it’s likely they waved their limbs in a gentle motion, Ortega-Hernández told Live Science. “I don’t imagine they would have quick muscle control.”

A squishy creature that didn’t move quickly needed a steadfast defense strategy, and that’s likely why it had so many spikes, he said. Other Cambrian wormlike creatures, such as the bizarre Hallucigenia, also sported spines.

Hallucigenia has two sets of spines per leg,” Ortega-Hernández said. “This one has up to five, which means it was a much more heavily armored creature.”

Collins’ monster

Researchers have dubbed the new creature Collinsium ciliosum, or Hairy Collins’ Monster, named after Desmond Collins, a paleontologist who discovered a fossil of a similar Cambrian wormlike creature in Canada in the 1980s. Since then, researchers have found five species of Collins’ Monster (in the family Luolishania), including one from Australia.

But, unlike earlier fossils, the newfound specimens offer researchers a spectacular view of the prehistoric creature. One fossil displays much of Collinsium ciliosum’s body, including its digestive tract and even the delicate, featherlike structures on its front limbs. Based on the fossils, when it was alive, the worm likely didn’t have any eyes or teeth, Ortega-Hernández said.

Over the past three years, scientists at Yunnan University in China and the University of Cambridge have uncovered and studied 29 C. ciliosum fossils from the early Cambrian Xiaoshiba biota, a deposit in southern China that contains a rich collection of fossilized Cambrian creatures, he said.

An analysis of C. ciliosum‘s anatomy indicates it’s a distant ancestor of modern-day velvet worms, also known as onychophorans — a small group (just 180 species) of squishy worms that live in tropical forests, shoot slime at their prey and resemble legged worms.

Interestingly, the Collins’ Monsters were likely a more diverse group that “came in a surprising variety of bizarre shapes and sizes” than today’s onychophorans, Ortega-Hernández said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time that an ancestral group has displayed more diversity than its modern-day relatives. Sea lilies (crinoids) and lamp shells (brachiopods) also follow this trend. But Collins’ Monsters are the first example of this evolutionary pattern playing out in a mostly soft-bodied group, the researchers said. [See Images of Another Bizarre Cambrian Creature]

The study is “a superb description based on absolutely exquisite fossils,” said Greg Edgecombe, a researcher of arthropod evolution at the Natural History Museum in London, who was not involved in the new study.

The new finding drives home that Cambrian wormlike animals such as Hallucigenia and the new Collinsium are the ancestors of Onychophora, Edgecombe said.

“That means they are more closely related to Onychophora than to any other living groups (such as arthropods or tardigrades),” Edgecombe told Live Science in an email. “Rather than floating around on the tree of life without an exact home,” these creatures can be pinpointed to a living group, Edgecombe said.

The findings were published online today (June 29) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

See also here.

Cambrian fossil Hallucigenia, new study


This video says about itself:

Hallucigenia: The worm with the missing head

The remains of an ancient worm species called ‘Hallucigenia’ were so bizarre looking that scientists originally reconstructed it upside down and back to front. Now Martin Smith reveals the most complete picture so far of this peculiar marine worm.

Read the Nature paper ‘Hallucigenia’s head and the pharyngeal armature of early ecdysozoanshere.

Find out more about Hallucigenia and other finds from the Burgess Shale at www.burgess-shale.rom.on.ca.

24th June 2015

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Hallucigenia: Significance of bizarre extinct creature revealed as it finally bares its teeth

The fossil’s bizarre appearance had mystified scientists for more than a century

Steve Connor, Science Editor

Wednesday 24 June 2015

A bizarre extinct creature that has mystified scientists since its 500m-year fossil was first unearthed more than a century ago has finally revealed its teeth – placing it centre stage in the evolution of many complex life-forms living today.

Hallucigenia, which owes its name to its unworldly appearance, was so odd that scientists initially confused its top from its bottom and its head from its tail. However, a study has now unequivocally identified its mouth, complete with a fearsome ring of sharp teeth.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have also identified a pair of simple eyes on Hallucigenia’s head and have determined that it was a close relative of the last common ancestor of everything from tiny velvet roundworms to huge lobsters.

“The early evolutionary history of this huge group is pretty much uncharted. While we know that the animals in this group are united by the fact that they moult, we haven’t been able to find many physical characteristics that unite them,” said Martin Smith of Cambridge University, the lead author of the study in Nature</em>.

Read more: Bat-like dinosaur fossil found after 160 million years

176-million-year old dinosaur vertebra discovered in Yorkshire

New Jurassic-era dinosaur species discovered in Wales

“Prior to our study there was still some uncertainty as to which end of the animal represented the head, and which the tail,” Dr Smith said.

“A large balloon-like orb at one end of the specimen was originally thought to be the head, but we can now demonstrate that this actually wasn’t part of the body at all, but a dark stain representing decay fluids or gut contents that oozed out as the animal was flattened during burial,” he said.