So, the post that WordPress ate earlier today was me squealing like a tween over some baby worms. Specifically, these ones (Gibson and Paterson, 2003):
Don’t you just want to cuddle them?
The adorable little slug-creatures with their cute little dot eyes are the larvae of a small polychaete worm called Amphipolydora vestalis. The adult worms build muddy tubes inside some poor unfortunate sponge in the waters of New Zealand (Paterson and Gibson, 2003). Females lay their eggs in an egg capsule within the tube, and add some extra eggs filled with yolk for the babies’ nourishment (Gibson and Paterson, 2003). The larvae in these pictures are about a week old, and they are bulging with all that yummy egg stuff they’ve been eating.
By the time they hatch from the capsule and leave to set up their own tube, they no longer look morbidly obese (or all that cute), and appear more like a weird alien species with four eyes in a row, hairy “legs” everywhere, and a pair of nice long tentacle things (technically “palps”) sprouting off their heads. These worms and others of the spionid family use the palps to collect tiny food particles (image from Gibson and Paterson ):
They eventually grow up into something like this (Hans Hillewaert, Wiki Commons):
(This is a related species; good photos of adult Amphipolydora are kind of non-existent.)
Did I mention I love polychaetes? (Not that I work on one or anything…)
Gibson GD & Paterson IG (2003) Morphogenesis during sexual and asexual reproduction in Amphipolydora vestalis (Polychaeta: Spionidae). New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 37:741-752
Paterson IG & Gibson GD (2003) A new species of Amphipolydora (Polychaeta: Spionidae) from New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 37:733-740