Washington, August 21 (ANI): Scientists have discovered a mysterious group of oceanic worms that can throw 'bombs' which burst into brilliant green light - probably a defensive mechanism against potential predators.
The unique group of worms was discovered by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC (University of California) San Diego.
They were found by the scientists using remotely operated vehicles at depths between 1,800 and 3,700 meters (5,900 and 12,140 feet).
Nicknamed "green bombers", the worms can release body parts that produce a brilliant green bioluminescent display.
They have been given the scientific name Swima bombiviridis, referring to their swimming ability and the green bombs.
Largely transparent except for the gut area, the worms propel themselves with fans of long bristles that form swimming paddles.
"The depths between 1,000 and 4,000 meters (3,280 and 13,120 feet) form the biggest habitat on Earth and also the least explored," said Scripps Professor Greg Rouse, a coauthor of the paper and curator of Scripps Benthic Invertebrate Collection.
"With fairly limited time on submersible vehicles, mainly off California, we've picked up seven new species. It goes to show that we have much more exploration ahead and who knows what else we'll discover?" he added.
Each of the species features a variety of elaborate head appendages.
Five of them are equipped with luminescent structures, the "bombs," that are fluid-filled spheres that suddenly burst into light when released by the animal, glowing intensely for several seconds before slowly fading.
Due to the bright lights of the submersible, scientists were not able to witness bomb-casting in the worm's natural habitat, but rather on ships after the animals were captured.
While the scientists speculate that the bombs are used as a defensive mechanism against potential predators, more studies are needed to fully understand the process.
According to Rouse, the green bombers in the newly discovered clade, (a common ancestor and all its descendant organisms), are fascinating from an evolutionary standpoint.
Looking closely at their relatives that live on the seafloor, it appears the bombs were once gills that evolutionarily transformed over time.
"The relatives have gills that appear to be in exactly the same places as the bombs," said Rouse. "The gills can fall off very easily; so there's a similarity of being detachable, but for some reason, the gills have transformed to become these glowing little detachable spheres," he added. (ANI)