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KILL IT WITH FIRE.
A video has been making the rounds on the Internet, showing some worm-like thing shooting what can only be described as the worst kind of silly string out of its face (butt?).
Warning: this video is super gross, possibly NSFW, definitely NSFL.
So what is it, other than the stuff of nightmares?
Well, it’s probably some species of Nemertean, a.k.a. ribbon worms or proboscis worms. Nemerteans is the general term for animals in the phylum Nemertea, which includes more than 1,000 species of creepy crawlies.
The Smithsonian wrote up a bunch of neat facts about ribbon worms. But what’s going on in this video is that the worm appears to be extending its proboscis (nose-like structure) in a process called eversion—something you may have seen with sea cucumbers.
Redditor exxocet suggested it’s the species gorgonorhynchus, which is known for its branching proboscis.
Exxocet cited “The Discovery of the Nemertean Gorgonorhynchus and Its Bearing on Evolutionary Theory” by J. F. G. Wheeler:
“This new nemertean has also a proboscis which is retractile within a proboscis sheath, but the proboscis is branched. The branching is of the dichotomous type. During eversion, which takes place almost explosively, the short main trunk. first appears, then this divides and the finer and filter branches appear, but since each one of these is the result of an evagination the effect is almost indescribable. It is as if a large number of lively, wriggling, minute worms had been shot out.”
Here’s another ribbon worm that also has an “explosive” proboscis eversion, but without the weird branching:
Have fun sleeping tonight!
Screengrab via Patrick Beckers, Rudi Loesel, Thomas Bartolomaeus/Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0)
Cynthia McKelvey covered the health and science for the Daily Dot until 2017. She earned a graduate degree in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2014. Her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Scientific American Mind, and Mic.com.