Here’s a clue to how this tube worm’s slime can glow blue for days

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 07:00 in Biology & Nature

Predators that tread on a colony of parchment tube worms may find themselves slimed. When threatened, these ocean creatures exude a sticky mucus that can glow blue for days (SN: 7/28/14). This sort of light produced by animals, bacteria or algae typically is gone in a flash (SN: 6/12/16). But with the mucus oozed by Chaetopterus tube worms, “we have easily 16 hours and sometimes 72 hours of light,” says Evelien De Meulenaere, a biochemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. New results suggest that the slime’s own light may help it shine on by triggering chemical reactions that sustain the glow. Making and sustaining such bioluminescence requires energy. But the slime’s power source is a mystery since it glows outside the body, where it can’t draw energy from the worms. So to unlock its secrets, scientists are dissecting the goo’s complicated chemistry. A marine parchment tube worm, shown here...

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