Fascinating audio presentation by Marcia McNutt of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, comparing the challenges of undersea and outer space exploration. Making her point about how much incredibly surreal life still awaits discovery here on earth, McNutt described the (relatively) recent discovery of the Frankpressi worm, which has no mouth and no stomach. Found two miles undersea, the worm appears only during “whale falls” – when a whale corpse sinks to the bottom of the sea, delivering a 70-ton feast to the ocean floor. The worm attaches itself to the hull of the whale and grows “roots” which descend into the whale’s bone marrow, where they begin digesting food osmotically.
What really puzzled researchers was the fact that all of the worms appeared to be female — where were the males? Turns out the males live only inside the females. The males are tiny, yolk-like creatures that develop only to the point where they can produce sperm, at which point their growth is permanently stunted. Sounds familiar.