Video: What on earth is this 'alien worm' that spits out white tentacles?

  • Living
  • Wednesday, 06 May 2015

A video showing a worm-like creature wriggling on a man’s hand before it spits out a web of white root-like tentacles that crawl and pulse all over the man's hand has gone viral on social media, leaving in its wake viewer comments that mostly express utter disgust.

Uploaded by Thai Facebook user Sutthipong Sonthidech on May 2, who jokingly refers to the creature as an "alien worm", the video was recorded using a mobile phone camera. It's unclear as to who shot the video, when it was taken, or whose hand received the ick-inducing web of white tendrils ejected from what looks like its mouth.

Watch if you dare.



What is it?

Notwithstanding its loathsome subject matter, the video found its way to YouTube where user Programming Programming shared it on May 3 accompanied by a description written in Thai. The version of the video you see above was uploaded to YouTube on May 4.

Google translates it as: "Neil Morris worm, candles or ribbons (UK: Nemertea) is a phylum of invertebrates. There are approximately 1,400 species, mostly living in the sea. Found in oceans around the world. There are a few species that live only in fresh water."

While most online users' brains simply melted after watching the freaky video, brave science geeks dug around the Internet and found a 2013 Smithsonian Magazine article to verify the claim, which has since been backed up by the UK's Daily Mail. According to the tabloid, the creature's exact identity is: Nemertean gorgonorhynchus. 

Generically, they're called "ribbon" or "proboscis" worms. In addition to marine environments, some members of the Nemertea family also live on land.

What makes the worm so disgusting is that thing that shoots out of its mouth. Some commenters have mentioned that it looks like a scene from a sci-fi horror film. Daily Mail compared the worm to Spiderman. Another website compares it to another inverterbrate, the velvet worm, which sprays glue on its prey from nozzles near its mouth.


The white stuff the ribbon worm ejects from its mouth is its proboscis, which it everts – turns inside out – from a chamber located just above its mouth when it attacks its prey. It does this by rapidly filling up the proboscis with fluid it stores in the chamber. The sticky tentacles of the proboscis then shoots out and acts like a net to grab hold of and immobilise prey.

After the strike, a muscle inside the worm pulls the proboscis back into the chamber, effectively shoving whatever it's ensnared into its mouth.

In this way, it functions somewhat like the equally yucky tongue of the chameleon.



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