These Weird Deep-Sea Worms Are Absurd And Enthralling

Aliens really are among us...

These aren't your garden-variety earthworms.

A stunning video released earlier this month by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute showcases the incredible diversity of worms found in the undersea world, often thousands of feet below the surface. About 8,000 species of polychaetes (pol-IH-keets) -- cousins of the earthworm -- have been discovered, but many more still swim about unknown to science.

Some burrow in mud on the seafloor, others live in superheated vents, and other species dubbed "zombie worms" even help digest whale skeletons. But some, like the creature below, swim about the open ocean, undulating and moving around with a series of paddle-like fins.

Credit: MBARI/YouTube

Polychaetes are the most common marine organisms, according to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, and select species can reach upward of 9 feet long. The largest ever found measured a prodigal 200 feet.

Some polychaetes float around and excrete a goo-like web similar to spiders to attract floating bits of food. But other stunning specimens like the dancing bristle worm seen below are active predators, Kyra Schlining, a research technician at the MBARI, says in the video.

Credit: MBARI/YouTube

"They can also emit a brilliant yellow glow to distract potential predators," Schlining says, which looks a bit like the worms are casting a magic spell.

Take a look at the video at the top of this post to learn more about our stunning deep-sea friends.

Credit: MBARI/YouTube

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