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Riftia Pachyptila - The Gaint Tube Worm

BY: Medha Hegde | Category: Biology | Submitted: 2012-12-13 10:22:36
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Article Summary: "The giant tube worm (Riftia pachyptila or tubeworm) are animals without a mouth, gut and legs that depend on microorganisms for food.Giant tube worms are seen everywhere in the pacific ocean where deep sea hydrothermal vents have been revealed..."

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The giant tube worm (Riftia pachyptila) are animals without a mouth, gut and legs that depend on microorganisms for food. They were completely not known to science till Scientists investigating the deep Pacific Ocean floor revealed extraordinary hydrothermal vents. Power-driven by volcanic warmth, these vents circulate water repeatedly that pass down through faults in the rock. The water which arises from these vent, is loaded in minerals and chemicals. This poisonous broth of chemicals would be toxic to most animals, but researchers found whole ecosystems of animals existing around these vents. Despite the near boiling temperature of the water, these animals were flourishing in the absolute absence of light. The creatures existing near these vents are distinctive because, contrasting to all other living beings on the planet, as they do not depend on sunlight as their energy source. In place they rely on small bacteria that obtain their energy straight from the chemicals in the water through a method known as chemosynthesis. The hydrothermal vents are called as "black smokers" because of the dark colour of the stuff they expel.

The giant tube worms develop up to 8 ft (more than 2 m) in length and do not have mouth or digestive tract. They rely on bacteria that exist within them for their nutrition, by mutually beneficial relationship (symbiosis). The bacteria in fact change the chemicals derived through the hydrothermal vents into organic substances that supply food for the worm. Even though the worms are without eyes, they can feel vibrations, movement and will move back into their tubes for protection.

The anatomy of the tube worm consists of,

Plume - The plume is bright red because it is filled with blood. The plume filters O2 , H2S and CO2 from the sea water. The blood then carries these molecules to the bacteria present in the cavity. Alike human blood tubeworm also contains haemoglobin (a protein that transports O2and imparts red colour).

Muscle - The muscle helps to keep the worm in the tube.

Cavity or trophosome - It is filled with bacteria. The bacteria produce sugars by the process of chemosynthesis and the tubeworm assimilates some of these sugars and utilizes them as food.

Worm tube - The tube is composed of tough substance called chitin. The tubes shield the worms from predators and poisonous chemicals from vents. They also function as an outer skeleton strengthening the worm and a worm can never depart its tube.

Giant tube worms multiply by liberating their eggs into the H2O to be fertilized. After emerging from the egg, the juvenile larvae swim down and fix themselves to rocks. The larvae grow into small worms and they provisionally develop a primeval mouth and gut through which the symbiotic bacteria get in and as the worm develop elder, the mouth and gut vanish, trapping the bacteria inside.

Giant tube worms are seen everywhere in the pacific ocean where deep sea hydrothermal vents have been revealed. The usual depth of these vents is 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Whole groups of shrimps and crabs have been discovered thriving around these giant tube worms. It is thought that these invertebrates feed by eating off bits of the red plumes of the tube worms. As astounding are the vent ecosystems, they are also exceedingly delicate. The contribution of chemicals through the vents can stop as the crust of the earth changes its position due to geothermal activity and when then this occurs, every amazing organisms that rely on these chemicals will shrink and die. Researchers have discovered the once thriving vents that are presently totally cold and dead. But the sequence starts a new when new hydrothermal vents start to develop somewhere else on the deep sea floor.

The amazing facts about tubeworms are that;

• Tubeworms are considered to be among the longest-lived animals on earth, some members are estimated to be about 250 years old.

• Some tubeworms grow up more than 2 m (8 feet) high. When juvenile, some tubeworms can develop at the rate of a few ft every year.

• Still in the similar species, the size and shape of the tubeworm can differ very much from pencil thin, to dwarf and thick, relying on the circumstances where they are developing.

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