The Bobbit worm: the terrifying worm at the bottom of the ocean

Nadine Kalinauskas
Daily Buzz

Here's something disturbing to kick off your week: the Bobbit worm.

Officially called Eunice aphroditois, the Bobbit worm — possibly nicknamed after Lorena Bobbitt, a woman who chopped nearly half her husband's penis off in 1993 — lives buried on the ocean floor, ready to destroy its prey with its scissor-like jaw, sometimes cleanly cutting it in two.

The colourful worm, with "a stunning purple iridescence," can grow up to 3 metres long. (Average length is just one metre. But still … gross.)

It detects its prey with five antennas sticking out of the silt and sand, then catches its prey, usually smaller worms and fish, with its pharynx, a complex feeding apparatus.

Bobbit Worm - Dinner time from liquidguru on Vimeo.

According to Scientific American:

"The pharynx can turn inside-out, like glove fingers, and has strong, sharp mandibles on the end. Sometimes its prey is cut clean in half because of the speed and strength of E. aphroditois’ attacks, and it can inflict a nasty bite if a human gets too close. Once the prey is caught, this long-living nocturnal worm will shoot back into its burrow to feed."

What happens next? No one really knows.

"What happens next is rather unknown, especially because they have not been observed directly," Luis F. Carrera-Parra and Sergio I. Salazar-Vallejo, ecologists specializing in annelid polychaetes at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Campeche, Mexico, wrote in a joint email to WIRED.

"We think that the eunicid injects some narcotizing or killing toxin in their prey animal, such that it can be safely ingested — especially if they are larger than the worm — and then digested through the gut."

The Eunice aphroditois can be found all over the world where the ocean is warm, at depths of 10 to 40 metres.

And, yes, the scary worm will bite people if they come too close. Fortunately they're too thin to consume a human body.=

"Who needs Shark Week to be terrified? Just show us some aquatic predatory worms. This is the stuff of nightmares," wrote io9's Jason G. Goldman.

Take a look at the "monster" worm in an aquarium below. Without all that sand, it's just as terrifying.

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