Worm Community Contributes to Methane Release in Ocean

Colony of polychaetes worms.

Burrowed in the sediment off the North Island of New Zealand lives a community of polychaetes from the family Ampharetidae. Polychaetes, composed of about 10,000 species, is the larger (and apparently not monophyletic) of the two generally recognized major groups of segmented worms (phylum Annilida) – the other being the Clitellata (earthworms and leeches).

Polychaete worms are characterized by an elongated, metameric bodies and their ability to create burrowed tubes to live in. As a result, these tunnels provide new conduits for methane trapped below the surface to escape.

Andrew R. Thurber, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University adds, “In essence, the worms are eating so much microbial biomass that they are shifting the dynamics of the sediment microbial community to an oxygen- and methane-fueled habitat — and the worms’ movements and grazing are likely causing the microbial populations to eat methane faster.”

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About jensera

Jennifer Harrington is a Toronto-based illustrator, writer and graphic designer. She illustrated the best-selling children’s book series 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' which includes the titles 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' 'The Night Before a Canadian Christmas' and 'Canadian Jingle Bells.' She is also the owner of JSH Graphics, a boutique graphic design agency that specializes in print and web advertising. With her latest project, Eco Books 4 Kids, Jennifer has partnered with illustrator Michael Arnott to create a series of ecologically-themed ebooks for children. Her next book, 'Spirit Bear,' is due for release in the Summer of 2013. Jennifer offers two different school presentations for her 'Moose in a Maple Tree' collection, an illustration demonstration and a Christmas concert series, which can be booked at www.amooseinamapletree.com. She will be taking bookings for school readings of 'Spirit Bear' beginning in October 2013.

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