New nightmare fuel: the giant scaleworm Eulagisca

Giant isopods and vampire squid are sooooo last year. I bet you’re even sleeping through the night now without imagining sixgill sharks tearing at your carcass. Fear not! Or should I say – FEAR MORE. I am here with an entirely new species to fuel your fevered nightmares.

Meet the giant Antarctic scaleworm Eulagisca. Last week, I wandered down into the Scripps Benthic Invertebrate Collection and saw this bad boy sitting in a giant gallon-sized jar (here’s a coffee mug for scale).

Holy crap.

Yes, that’s a worm. For reference, most scaleworms look like this:

tiny scale worm

Awww, wook at the wittle scawlworm in a petwi dish. Photo from Oases 2012 cruise, WHOI.

When I mentioned that the GIANT FRICKIN’ SCALEWORM to the collections manager, she chortled evilly and opened the jar for me. It gets worse. So much worse.

BEHOLD: the jaws of Eulagisca. This photo is taken from the top of the jar looking down. Yes, that entire purple structure is a GIANT SET OF JAWS sticking out of the front of the GIANT WORM.

euglasia jaws

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Many polychaete worms have an eversible pharynx – most of the time those jaws are tucked away, but when the worm wants to feed, the entire front of their throat rolls out of their mouth. Here’s a better photo from the Smithsonian Antarctic Invertebrates collection. Yes, that scale bar say 2 cm (0.8 inches) – the jaws and pharynx are around two inches long!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Photo from Smithsonian.

I could not find any ecological information on Eulagisca in the scientific literature, so I don’t know what it eats. It inhabits the continental shelf off Antarctica, and could be a predator or scavenger or both. Chris Mah, being all up on the Antarctic invertebrates, wrote about Eulagisca a couple months ago, and guess that it was predatory. Any experts in the audience should chime in. In the meantime - AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Miriam Goldstein (228 Posts)





12 comments on “New nightmare fuel: the giant scaleworm Eulagisca
  1. I love the fact that it’s simply our somewhat largish size and dryish disposition that prevents us from being consumed by some of the awesome nightmares that lurk beneath the tranquil waves of our shallow seas.

  2. That worm has a mouth that is very similar to the creature from Alien. Nature and movie makers think alike.

    • I don’t know about Alien, but the Alien Queen in Aliens is rumored to be based off a midwater (“twilight zone”) amphipod!

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  4. Yep, just a wee bit terrifying. Amazing it grows that big in Antarctica. Going to have to do some research on Antarctic marine life.

  5. I must say I would hate to crawl out of an Eskimo fish hole with that attatched to my leg. I would probably shart myself at the thought of it touhching me…funknasty I must say!!!

  6. Pingback: Giant Antarctic Scaleworm | prettyawfulthings

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