Mysteries of the ocean: Iridescent ‘Elvis’ worms that shimmer found thousands of feet underwater

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Secrets and unknown species abound in the waters of Earth’s oceans. Among these mysterious species is one worm detected by scientists in 2020. Its iridescent colours reminded the discoverers so much of the king of rock’n’roll that they nicknamed it the “Elvis worm”.

The sparkling Peinaleopolynoe were discovered 4,000 metres or 13,000 feet underwater in some of the Pacific ocean’s deepest hydrothermal vents.

Because of their shimmering scales, which are reminiscent of the sequined jumpsuits worn by Elvis Presley, they have been referred to as “Elvis worms” for years.

Their name Peinaleopolynoe is derived from the Greek word peinaléos, which means hungry or famished. As per the Guardian, the hungry scale-worms got their name because the first time they were seen, they were gathered around a pile of food that researchers had left on the deep-sea floor as something of an experiment.

Avery Hiley, a graduate researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, while talking to Guardian said, “You’ll see little pink sparkly worms, blue ones, red ones, black ones, and white ones.”

Elvis worm

(Image credits: Oceanfilly/Twitter)

The sparkly pink one is the one nicknamed “Elvis” worm by Hiley and her colleagues. They initially thought that there were multiple species of the worm but genetics test results found that it is one species that changes colours as “it develops from a juvenile to an adult form.”

Scale worms have been discovered on whale carcasses, volcanic seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, etc., all habitats that house chemical-harnessing bacteria.

“They have jaws, which we suspect they use to graze bacteria,” Hiley explains, adding that they believe the worms are bacteriovores.

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