If there is an all-powerful God out there, you would have to ask that God what was going through their mind when they dreamed up this poor guy: a Scottish worm with eyes in its butt.
The curious creature was recently discovered by a research team from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Marine Scotland Science, and Thomson Environmental Consultants.
Reporting in the European Journal of Taxonomy, the team carried out a study of the teeny worm and concluded that it was, in fact, a previously unrecognized species, now named Ampharete oculicirrata. They reached this conclusion using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to prove it is unique enough to classify it as a new species. At least 40 known species belong to the Ampharete genus.
They managed to capture a total of 85 butt-eyed worms, all of which are now residing in a jar of ethanol at the National Museum of Scotland. The individuals were found some 120 meters (400 feet) below the water surface in a previously unexplored portion of a sandy seabed in the West Shetland Shelf Marine Protected Area north of Scotland. Measuring up to 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) in length and 1 millimeter in width, the worm has a number of eyes on its head, but it also has two placed on the end of two stalks sticking out of its butt.
“This new species is an exciting and interesting addition to the work we do in Marine Protected Areas. The fact that it was found in relatively shallow depths, relatively close to the Scottish coastline, shows just how much more there is to understand about the creatures that live in our waters,” Jessica Taylor, marine evidence advisor from JNCC, said in a statement.
“It’s always fascinating to work on offshore samples. In those collected by JNCC and MSS at 100-600 meters (330-2,000 feet) depth, we saw many rare and unusual species which are typical of deeper waters, such as brittle stars and various polychaetes and shrimps," added Ruth Barnich, a principal scientist in the marine team at Thomson.