Oct 21, 2008

Line of Inquiry

Hunters come in all sorts of packages, ranging from the sleek jaguar of the Amazon to the wolf packs of North America to the...the velvet worm.

The velvet worm is neither velvet nor a worm. These small hunters (ranging from 1 inch to 1 foot in length) belong to their own little phylum of Onychophora. They move like caterpillars (similar speed too), but their 'feet' (which again, aren't feet--they're called lobopods) move through hydrostatic pressure, since these critters have no skeleton and little in the way of musculature.
























Q: So, what do they hunt?
A: Invertebrates.

Q: Ah, but how do they hunt?
A: When they spot prey, they spray a sticky substance at it, at a distance of over a foot and a half if needed. The goop quickly congeals and cements its prey to the ground, giving the velvet worm the opportunity to eat at its leisure. The velvet worm undulates up, bites the prey with its mandibles, and injects its own blend of digestive juices, which liquefies the innards of the prey. The velvet worm then slurps up the invert-gut-gruel.

Q: But how does it access the gruel?
A: By rasping its prey with its tongue that is covered with sharp teeth.


I'll stop asking questions now. I don't like where this line of inquiry is going.

Thanks for the photos, Jelo.

11 comments:

Flartus said...

Ewww! Streams of goo! It's Spiderman's evil doppelganger.

Still...lobopods. That's just a cool word. I might like some lobopods, if they weren't associated with a raspy tooth-tongued innards slurper.

Anonymous said...

In other news, the velvet worm has filed a patent infringement lawsuit today against Wham-O, the makers of Silly String.

niner said...

^ *cackles at post above*

Look at his feet! err.. lobopods! So stubby. He's cute but only in the 1 inch range. And not if he were hunting me.

Kit said...

Quick Velvet Worm! Use String Shot! It's super effective!... and disgusting

Wendy said...

This is just the best blog - I learn thew coolest and most disgusting things here! :D "Onychophora", "lobopod", Silly String as a weapon/trap...

Liz said...

I sort of want to pet it, it looks soft. This blog is desensitizing me.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

That last photo vaguely resembles an 1950s era scientific fiction movie! But truth is stranger than fiction, even science fiction!

Anthony James Barnett - author said...

YUK! Nightmare stuff. Thank god they ain't bigger.

Victorya said...

Love it! Shoots goo, teeth on the tongue, bad date but fun lifeform!

morgan said...

I love velvet worms! This guy (and the Tardigrade, or water bear) is to all other arthropods what the platypus and echidna are to all other mammals (more or less).
Onycophorans are now exclusively terrestrial, but in the paleozoic they lived throughout the oceans. To any fossil nuts out there: that bizarre Burgess shale thing, Hallucinigenia, is actually one such marine Onycophoran.
http://images.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&q=hallucigenia&btnG=Search+Images

For maximum ugly-factor--find yourself a close-up of a living one's face! It looks kind of like a meat grinder mixed with that pit monster from star wars that digests you over a thousand years... you know what I'm talking about...

Erik said...

Gol dang, seeing well enough to aim a foot and a half would seem to make this among the best sighted invertebrates, unless they employ the shotgun theory; the "if necessary" verbiage seems to imply they're sharp shooters.

Anyway, brings up a question - how far can the keenest invertebrate see?