deep-sea, iridescent “elvis worms” have researchers all shook up

“FROM ELVIS WORMS to the Milky Way’s edge, these sci­ence sto­ries sparked joy in 2020.” How could I re­sist that head­line? Even though the tagline to this web­site is “a blog about Elvis Pres­ley’s music and the records it can be found on” and this ar­ticle has ab­solutely nothing to do with music or records, they had me at “Elvis worms.”

That was the head­line on to­day’s emailed newsletter from Sci­ence News. Clicking the links to that ar­ticle, I found this sub-title: “The an­i­mals’ iri­des­cent scales are rem­i­nis­cent of se­quins on the iconic jump­suits of The King.” The orig­inal ar­ticle was written by

opening sen­tence is, “A new look at the crit­ters known as ‘Elvis worms’ has the scale worm family all shook up.” Now how could I re­sist posting that? Here is a bit more of that article:

“These deep-sea dwellers flaunt glit­tery, iri­des­cent scales rem­i­nis­cent of the se­quins on Elvis’ iconic jump­suits. Analysis of the crea­tures’ ge­netic makeup shows that Elvis worms com­prise four species of scale worm. This analysis places Elvis worms in the Peina­le­opolynoe genus of scale worms, which in­cludes two other known species—one found off the coast of Spain, the other off California.

 

Re­searchers don’t know why Elvis worms have evolved such eye-catching scales, since the an­i­mals live in the dark.

 

The four newly iden­ti­fied Elvis worm species are scat­tered across the Pa­cific, from in Mon­terey Canyon off Cal­i­fornia to in the Gulf of Cal­i­fornia by Mexico and near Costa Rica.

These deep-sea Elvis im­per­son­ators share some common traits, such as nine pairs of scales. But each species has its own dis­tinct flare. P. elvisi’s gold and pink iri­des­cent color scheme earned it the honor of keeping the worms’ name­sake in its of­fi­cial title. P. or­phanae, on the other hand, mostly sports rainbow-sparkled scales of a bluish hue. 

The re­searchers don’t know why Elvis worms have evolved such eye-catching scales, since the an­i­mals live in the dark, deep sea. It could just be a side ef­fect of de­vel­oping thicker scales over time, which happen to re­fract more light. Thicker scales could come in handy in a fight since Elvis worms are ap­par­ently biters, a be­havior dis­cov­ered while watching a worm skirmish.”

Tiny, deep-sea dwelling worms flaunt glit­tery, iri­des­cent scales rem­i­nis­cent of the dec­o­ra­tions on Elvis’s iconic jump­suits of the 1970s. Click To Tweet

Elvis Worms": photo of four of these tiny, deep-sea dwelling worms.

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