Oh snap! Weird ocean worms make a racket when they rumble

Surprised scientists discovered these little worms make loud underwater snapping sounds when they're duking it out.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Leocratides kimuraorum swims softly and carries a big snap.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Squishy worms are usually pretty quiet creatures. The aquatic Leocratides kimuraorum worms found off the coast of Japan have soft bodies, but they carry a shockingly loud snap. 

Researchers collected some specimens, brought them back to a lab and discovered just how much noise they can make when in combat with each other.

Marine biologist Ryutaro Goto at Kyoto University in Japan co-authored a paper on these unusual worms in the journal Current Biology. It has an eye-catching title: Remarkably loud snaps during mouth-fighting by a sponge-dwelling worm

You can hear the worms for yourself in a video shared by Science Magazine. The two worms fight mouth-to-mouth and make a popping noise during the confrontation.

The scientists said the worm sounds are comparable to those made by snapping shrimps, "which are among the most intense biological sounds that have been measured in the sea." What's curious is how these soft worms are making such a big noise.

The researchers suggest the worms use a muscle contraction method, saying "this permits extremely rapid expansion of the pharynx within the worm's body during the strike, which yields an intense popping sound (likely via cavitation) and a rapid influx of water." Cavitation is the formation of a bubble, which is the same way snapping shrimp generate their loud sounds.

These worms and their underwater rumblings remain "an intriguing biomechanical puzzle that hints at a new type of extreme biology," the scientists said in the paper. 

This is just one more reason why the ocean is a magical place.

These far-out animals fascinate and amuse scientists

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