Creatures from the Sewer

The latest viral video is from the sewer under Cameron Village in Raleigh, NC.  The mysterious creatures found are nothing short of disgusting and spectacular.  This video has made its way to Video Sift and various cryptozoology sites.  Speculations on the nature of this creature run from bryozoans, cnidarians, slime molds, and some mysterious alien creature here to suck out our brains. Well let me say first that it is none of the above. I can think of no freshwater Cnidarian that looks anything like this.  It lacks the characteristic delineations that would indicate individual zooids in the colony and frankly the retracting of finger-like tentacles doesn’t seem like a bryozan characteristic (see the pictures at this site). In fact, I have poked a lot of invertebrates as lab instructor for invertebrate zoology and as a graduate student just for shits and giggles and none of the mentioned candidates would respond like this. So back to square one…

You shouldn’t trust me however…you should trust an expert in one of the aforementioned groups.  Enter stage right Dr. Timothy S. Wood who is an expert on freshwater bryozoa and an officer with the International Bryozoology Association.  I sent along the video and this was his reponse…

Thanks for the video – I had not see it before. No, these are not bryozoans!  They are clumps of annelid worms, almost certainly tubificids (Naididae, probably genus Tubifex). Normally these occur in soil and sediment, especially at the bottom and edges of polluted streams. In the photo they have apparently entered a pipeline somehow, and in the absence of soil they are coiling around each other. The contractions you see are the result of a single worm contracting and then stimulating all the others to do the same almost simultaneously, so it looks like a single big muscle contracting. Interesting video.

More video of Tubifex


Dr. M (1605 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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156 comments on “Creatures from the Sewer
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  5. It’s not a colonoscopy film. There are concrete walls in the video. I don’t think it’s Tubifax worms either, but I haven’t really looked.

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  8. if they are not 2 different species in these videos, they are in different stages of life. the sewer blob looks like a slimy hive. you can see it contracting and expanding with the whole blob.explain the barb looking “nail”. very interesting indeed

  9. Clearly the videographer here is not trained in zoology – otherwise we’d have images of the whole blob in a jar of formalin! Identification would then be much easier.

  10. Doesn’t look the same to me. It seems like they would prefer to be under the water as opposed to being just above the water line. The clump in the top video seems to be very solid or is it covered with a layer of slime?

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  12. Someone needs to remove one of these clumps and dig into it with a knife so that we can get another video. Or better yet, go down there and cut into it “in situ”. Now that would be fun to see.

  13. Chris, it’s definitely not a colonoscopy. Have you ever seen one of those before? Just look at google it and look at the images, it looks NOTHING like this video.

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  16. Chris
    It is certainly NOT a colonoscopy film. I hope you were joking and we just didn’t get your humor. Otherwise duh.

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  19. Has anyone considered a mutated variety of sea slug? That would explain the existence in the sewers, and the wierd brain-ishness. It’s possible it was exposed to air and evolved to undergo this strange mutation.

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  28. I hope your colonoscopy doesn’t look like this chris.. but if it does, i suppose you could always profit off it through folks like mr magoo…

  29. Unfortunately the video material isn’t of high quality, but it seems like these “things” are not individual Worms moving. I’m a computer science student and have NO clue about biology at all. The only thing I can do is perform an analysis on the video material itself. As much as I’ve seen yet (with bare eyes) the surface structure stays relatively intact before and after contractions. In that Tubifex video above I saw individual worms slowly “breaking out of the formation” at times though. Further I didn’t see that much slime in the Tubifex video. That slime must be of protective nature I think. Guess one species cannot adapt so fast (produce slime the next day)…

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  32. Woah, freaky stuff. Very cool. It’s spooky the way it all contracts, and it totally reminds me of those brain sucker things from… some old video game… I can’t remember. But the screen used to go green and it would suck your health out when they jumped on you.

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