Don’t step on me! Local ecosystem engineer provides opportunities for biomedical research
Published: Monday, June 1, 2020
Chaetopterus pergamentaceus or ‘parchment tube worm' is an annelid worm present in local coastal habitats that the Seaver Lab studies. It lives its entire adult life inside a soft U-shaped tube that is mostly buried beneath the ocean floor, and only the tips of the tubes are directly exposed to sea water.
(Photo: Two ends or ‘chimneys’ of a tube from a single individual protruding above the sandy substrate at low tide in the Matanzas inlet.)
Chaetopterus is a filter feeder similar to the feeding style used by oysters and clams. It pulls food into its tube by generating a unidirectional flow of sea water through its tube. Alexis Lanza in the Seaver Lab recently put together a short video to showcase this interesting and unusual animal.
Chaetopterus is a great example of leveraging biodiversity to understand human health related questions. For example, it can regenerate its entire body, including its brain. Furthermore, there are lots of remaining mysteries associated with the biology of this animal such as: how does the tube grow as the animal grows?Why does it have specialized cells that emit light even though it spends its whole life beneath the sediment inside its tube?