Worm Community Contributes to Methane Release in Ocean
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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