17 July 2011

Scanning EM of a "hydrothermal worm"

Credit to FEI (makers of electron microscopes), via Dark Roasted Blend.  Unfortunately no further info*, except that it's a marine organism, so it probably lives near a black smoker or somewhere like that.

*Addendum:  tentatively identified as Lepidonotopodium piscesae by Anon at BoingBoing. (Tx for the heads-up, Cobwebs).

Second addendum, from my cousin's husband, who is a professor of Microbiology and has gone down to the vents in Alvin:
Probably belonging to the genus Alvinella or Paralvinella.  These are relatively small vent worms that have numerous filamentous sulfur bacteria attached to their outer surface.  Unlike the large vent worms with internal symbionts Alvinella etc. probably graze on bacteria and archaea as food sources, hence the rather dramatic mouth.  There was a highly controversial (= almost certainly wrong) claim about the upper temperature limits of these worms being well above that of any other known metazoan.  Details available on that if you want them.


  1. It would make a good cover art for a Dune novel.

  2. David - that is exactly what I thought too! Fantasy artists could gather a lot of inspiration from the microscopic world.

  3. Over on BoingBoing somebody identified the species as Lepidonotopodium piscesae.

  4. Yikes...no escape here...looks like whatever is going into that mouth is not meant to come out the way the ?chewing apparatus? is angled inward

  5. There additional photos of said species here at the Encyclopedia of Life site.

  6. In just in the last few days I saw something online that talked about the Earth's internal heat being far larger (twice as large comes to mind) than previously thought.

    That and this post reminded me that I had tried to find out how much total heat comes out of all the undersea thermal vents.

    The reason for my interest is that I can't find anything about where the heat energy for El Niño comes from. Climate scientists seem to treat it as if it is a primary source of heat. But it can't be. El Niño is an effect. Its source is either excess internal energy entering the oceans or it is a diversion of and storing of some portion of the existing tropical oceanic heat energy until it exceeds some threshold, at which time it "overflows" and rises to the surface at the Equator.

    I can't find anything on this. If anyone else can, it would be appreciated.

    In lieu of other sources, I suggest that the thermal vents are more numerous than we currently suspect and that they are the source of the heat energy. It is a simplistic idea, I know. But El Niño's heat energy comes from somewhere.

  7. The first addendum appears to be correct, rather than the second.


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