The early researcher gets the sea worm. In this case, a team of scientists from Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research, National Museum of Nature and Science, and Kochi University found a new species of sea worm — they named Flabelligena Gillet 2001.
The discovery was made when the scientists were collecting specimens from the seafloor at depths of 2,036 to 2,479 meters, in the South Orkney Islands in the Southern Ocean.
When the scientists looked at the specimens under a microscope and photographed them with a high-resolution digital camera, they noticed the new sea worm.
According to the team’s research, which was published in Biodiversity Data Journal in June, the Flabelligena Gillet 2001 sea worm has a “minute” yellow body, body papillae (small rounded protuberance), 1-3 pairs of gill-like organs called branchiae, and two frontal palps. Its body is about 1.8 centimeters long and 1 millimeter wide. Both ends of the sea worm are rounded.
The new species of worm is now one of six species of Flabelligena and is considered part of the class of worms called polychaetes, which contains over 10,000 species. The new sea worms live in sandy mud areas, mainly in underwater at 1,000 meters and deeper.
“Polychaetes are one of the most diverse groups in marine benthic animals and well-studied in the Southern Ocean,” research team leader Naoto Jimi said in a statement on Aug. 12.”Many researchers have investigated the Southern Ocean, but our knowledge of small deep-sea invertebrates is still quite limited.”
This new species is the first record of Flabelligena found in the Southern Ocean. Other already known Flabelligena sea worms are found mainly from the North Atlantic Ocean — three of which are known from the Southwest Atlantic, Mediterranean, and South Indian Oceans.