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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Name that Worm

Fuzzicawuzzicus. Hispidafigulus. Imapickyeaterincali.

Ask the public's help in naming two new species of deep-sea worms, and you are bound to get a few off-the-wall suggestions. These were some of the unique names submitted for the Birch Aquarium at Scripps' "Name a Species Contest" in June.

The worms were recently discovered by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, in association with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. They were living on whale carcasses that had fallen to the ocean floor off Monterey, Calif.

After a week of online voting, Laura McIntyre, 19, from San Diego, got to give the deep-sea worm belonging to the genus Vrijenhoekia the species name ketea, the Latin word for "sea monsters." A first-grade classroom at The Children's School in La Jolla got to name the second worm, belonging to the genus Podarkeopsis, the species name falenothiras, the Greek word for "whale hunter."

More than 165 species names were submitted from 22 states as well as from Greece and Taiwan. Scientists from the Scripps Marine Invertebrate Phylo­genetics Lab, who discovered the species, selected three finalists for each species. Then, more than 1,100 votes were cast for the finalists from as far afield as Indonesia, Italy, Japan and South Africa.

—Jessica Z. Crawford