Alert reader Hempstein found this scary creature on Wired Science. It’s a bobbit worm, a predatory polychaete with the scientific name Eunice aphroditois. It’s actually quite pretty in a ghastly kind of way, and can grow up to 3 meters long:
Wired gives more information:
Using five antennae, the bobbit worm senses passing prey, snapping down on them with supremely muscled mouth parts, called a pharynx. It does this with such speed and strength that it can split a fish in two. And that, quite frankly, would be a merciful exit. If you survive initially, you get to find out what it’s like to be yanked into the worm’s burrow and into untold nightmares.
“What happens next is rather unknown, especially because they have not been observed directly,” Luis F. Carrera-Parra and Sergio I. Salazar-Vallejo, ecologists specializing in annelid polychaetes at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Campeche, Mexico, wrote in a joint email to WIRED. “We think that the eunicid injects some narcotizing or killing toxin in their prey animal, such that it can be safely ingested — especially if they are larger than the worm — and then digested through the gut.”
Wikipeda adds this:
In March 2009, the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, Cornwall, discovered a bobbit worm in one of their tanks. The workers had seen the devastation caused by the worm, such as fish being injured or disappearing and coral being sliced in half, but didn’t find it until they started taking the display apart in the tank. This may not be an isolated incident; Bobbit worms can be introduced to tank environments while hidden in “live rock.”
The worm’s ability to slice prey in half has led to suggestions that its name comes from the unfortunate John Bobbitt, whose paternal apparatus was severed from his body by his wife Lorena in 1993 after an altercation whose nature was never resolved.
At any rate, here’s the highlight: watch this worm catch a fish (be sure to watch all the way through):