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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Green Bombers

The biggest habitat on Earth is also the least explored. Because its vast expanses remain largely unknown, the deep sea continues to amaze scientists who study its dark depths.

The latest findings come in the form of a curious group of organisms discovered by Karen Osborn and Greg Rouse and their colleagues at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and described recently in the journal Science.

The researchers discovered worms that can release body parts, or “bombs,” i.e. fluid-filled spheres. These suddenly burst into brilliant green bioluminescent light when released, glow intensely for several seconds, and then slowly fade.

The “green bomber” worms were discovered by the scientists using remotely operated vehicles at depths between 1,800 and 3,700 meters (5,900 and 12,140 feet).

Osborn says that opportunities to witness such animals and collect them have been extremely rare.

“We found a whole new group of fairly large, extraordinary animals that we never knew anything about before,” says Osborn, a post-doctoral researcher at Scripps. “These are not rare animals. Often when we see them, they number in the hundreds. What’s unique is that their habitat is really hard to sample.”

—Mario Aguilera, ’89