12-12-2013

A worm which broods the eggs like hens

Researchers from the University of Barcelona and the Institute of Research in Biodiversity (IRBio) discovered a new species of marine worm in Antarctica, Antarctonemertes riesgoae, which broods the eggs like hens. The scientific finding, recently published in the journal Polar Biology, was developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Alcalá, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, and Harvard University.

In marine Antarctic waters, UB experts found that during reproduction, females of the nemertean A. riesgoae secrete a very dense mucous substance through its body wall that solidifies in contact with seawater creating an elastic layer. Once the cocoon is created, females lay eggs on it and brood them. Brooding behaviour is not uncommon but it is remarkable in marine worms that in addition energetically defend their eggs from external threats. To date, only two nemertean species were known to brood their eggs.

The research is a part of the Actiquim-II project. We informed about this project in a post in our blog on 17th September, about the discovery of Osedax deceptionensis, a new species of marine invertebrate that feeds on bones.

Marta Alegret (Universitat de Barcelona)

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