Bizarre ribbon worm shoots white ‘webs’
The disgusting creature is thought to be a type of marine ribbon worm
The video footage show an explosive form of attack where the worm extends its proboscis – an elongated internal appendage – to snare prey
Proboscis spreads out like Spiderman’s webs, but there is some speculation whether the video includes CGI effects
A bloodthirsty worm that shoots white ‘webs’ like Spiderman to snare hapless prey, may sound like the stuff of nightmares.
It’s not clear exactly what the species of worm is, but it’s thought it is displaying its most deadly method of attack – by shooting out its proboscis – an elongated appendage like a nose that’s usually stowed inside its body.
In the footage, its body looks swollen and lumpy and it seems to pause before suddenly ejecting what looks like thick white mucus.
Experts from North Carolina State University said that when the worm senses prey nearby, the circular muscle around its proboscis sheath contracts vigorously, forcing fluid from the sheath into the proboscis.
This action turns the proboscis inside out, blowing it out of the sheath and the animal’s insides.
Within a second or so, the proboscis usually wraps itself around the prey, which is then drawn into the mouth and eaten.
American Naturalist JFG Wheeler described the actions of the Nemertean Gorgonorhynchus, writing: ‘It is as if a large number of lively, wriggling, minute worms had been shot out.’
It’s estimated there are between 900 and 1,400 species of ribbon worms, which have unsegmented bodies.
Some can reach a length of 98 ft (30 metres) although their bodies are only a few millimetres wide.
Ribbon worms have a complete digestive tract, with a mouth and anus, as well as their unique proboscis.