Scientists working on the ECOMAR research program aboard the RSS James Cook have discovered several animals commonly known as acorn worms that they say provide important insight into the evolutionary link between vertebrates and invertebrates.
Professor Monty Priede and his colleagues from the University of Aberdeen had been plying the waters of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azore Islands when they discovered these animals living about 1.5 miles (2500m) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
The scientists named the three specimens belonging to the family Torquaratoridae :
Yoda purpurata for the reddish-purple acorn worm with large lips on either side of its head, which reminded the researchers of the floppy-eared character from Star Wars fame, Yoda. Purpurata is Latin for purple. (See photo to the right.)
Tergivelum cinnabarinum is the vibrant scarlet-orange acorn worm. Cinnabarinum means cinnabar in Latin, and cinnabar is a reddish mineral. (Photo below)
According to Professor Monty Priede, “It’s incredibly exciting to find new species and when we retrieved them back on board the ship, everyone was amazed at the striking differences in color which led to nicknames such as “northern pink”, “southern purple”, and “southern white” which captured their color as well as where on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge they were found.”
He further shared, “Our colleague in California Nick Holland, the world authority on the Enteropneusts, chose the name Yoda for the new genus characterized by its large ear-like lips.”
Ten years ago the first deep sea torquaratorid acorn worm was found in the Pacific Ocean, but the presence of these newly found animals in the Atlantic Ocean indicates they may be found world-wide.
The professor added, “Shallow water acorn worms live in burrows and are rarely seen, whereas deep sea species browse on the sea floor leaving spiral poo traces that resemble crop circles. These traces have been seen in fossil form, but until recently no-one knew what produced them.”
These animals are significant because they provide insight into what the lifestyle of human remote ancestors may have been like. Scientists believe they are abundant in the oceans of the world, but until recently they weren’t able to find them. New technology has aided their search and provided some wonderful specimens for further study.
How New is New?
My Crytid loving friends, please note that they believe these animals are abundant in our oceans but were only recently found due to improvements in technology. Could we say the same thing about other mysterious animals that seem tantalizing close, but remain “unfound”?
These acorn worms aren’t really “new”. They have been here for millennia, if not longer, but we’ve only just “found” them.
I firmly believe it’s just a matter of time before our other cryptids are found, particularly in the Bigfoot family around the world!
Til the next time!