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 (1631 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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  3. i don’t see how these could be tubifex worms; how do you explain all the slime?

    also, notice how the whole mass is still until it suddenly contracts when the camera is centered on the mass. the masses always contract in a similar pattern and somehow these ‘constricting worms’ are sucking up the slime around them instead of pushing slime away.

    i’m not saying this can’t be real -it would be a delight to find these are worms growing and harvesting bacterial sludge (? -actually it looks more like a slime mold) for food. however, the more likely answer is that this is a viral video for some special effects company looking to make a minor splash.

    it should be relatively simple to construct a prop like this. it is some sort of soft, gelatinous material -such as silicone or latex- resting in slime or liquid contained within a latex skin that is either molded or sprayed onto the construct. a pump at the back suctions material out to make the whole mass constrict. put a fake eye in the middle with mechanically operated eyelids for maximum gross out effect.

  4. Aliens don’t come here to suck out our brains. They come here to mate with our women. Please keep this straight in the future. Thank you.

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  7. J.C. Denton: It might be that the worms aren’t strong enough to “break formation” unless they are in water.

  8. Haha, Raleigh, NC? R’lyeh, anyone?
    No connection, obviously, but it’s still a cool coincidence. :)

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  10. I don’t see anywhere where anyone has retrieved a specimen and verified what exactly it is yet. It seems that they haven’t even been verified yet that they are even biological.

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  14. I owned a lot of tubifex worms in my life. They all ball up like the third video. I’ve never seen them do anything like the first video.

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  17. Hello–Seeing the video and reading the comments regarding the Cameron Village video reminded me of a strange encounter my family had several years ago in Duck, NC. I hope that the Deep Sea News Team can help us determine what it was that we saw. One evening after a major storm we went out to do a little beach combing. Midway down the shore we saw a softball sized pod propted up on a dune. My husband knocked it down and we examined it closely. It was dark brown with the texture of a leathery orange, in fact we thought it might have been one discarded into the ocean and petrified. We were convinced it was old fruit and just to prove it my husband pierced with his pocket knife. It oozed a bright orange liquid, almost like a yolk. Then something inside it moved. We all screamed a little and kicked it back into the ocean.
    When we got back home I consulted some Oceanographers in Wilmington and they were able to tell me what it wasn’t: skate egg sac or turtle egg. So after this description can anyone tell me what it was? Thanks

  18. if they are worms what’s with the disgusting walls around them those cannot be sewer pipes!

  19. its my personal opinion that it one of the very rare species of AHUWHWHHFAAAAAAAAAAAARHG!!!!!! RUN!!!!!!!!!

  20. How do I get reid of them? I leave in a very old house and I need to change the leaking pipes but there is a puddle of water under the house with those things living there. Please someone help me.

  21. you’s guys is dumb. wtf. of course they’re worms. sometimes things happen and people say stupid things about them, even if it’s not true. it happened now, and it happened with the bible.

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  25. ITS STARCRAFT !!!!!! RUN PEOPLE THE ZERGLINGS HAVE FOUND OUT WERE MAKEING A PART 2 TO STARCRAFT -.- WE HAVE 48 HOURS OF TACOS TO LIVE

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  27. lol i realy want someone to videotape themselves kicking those and seeing what falls out

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  37. 20 bucks to lick that? Too many choices to go down the two-minded road on that my friend.

  38. Note the “tendrils” where the organism(s) meet the water. They look a great deal like a filter feeder’s “mouth.” I can’t imagine a colony having a shared system. Regardless of their function it seems unlikely they are a shared physiology.

  39. So after searching around on the matter it’s my opinion that tubiflex sounds the most viable explanation, however I also haven’t seen any pics/videos of tubiflex worms that look any thing like that. Possibly pure coincidence but not too far away on Ashe st, I noticed a plumbing crew with a robot camera as well working today (7/06)

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  41. Are you kidding me? The texture of the thing itself does look like it could be made of those tubiflex worms, but hell, not ONE is blatantly out of the whole. NOT ONE in probably thousands. If you see any video on tubiflex they look like worms in every single piece. There is nothing in these creatures that looks like a worm, not a single clue in all four (?) lumps we see. The last one in particular shows how not only the stuff around it looks more muscle like than worm like, but also how it works as a whole, and not a chaotic bulb of worms. The expert’s theory on tubiflex makes sense for the protuberance to move (they all react), but not for the ones on the wall actively holding and strengthening the rest.

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