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Marine Worm and Carbon-Rich Water: Raising Young Differently

Aug 13, 2015 10:26 PM EDT

The family that's raised in acidifying waters stays together, right? 

Or at least, researchers at Plymouth University in the U.K. said recently in the journal Scientific Reports that the polychaete worms they studied living near Mediterranean volcanic vents show more nurturing and brooding tendencies toward their young than other, closely related marine worms.

These marine worms, by the way, have pairs of laterally placed bundles of bristles on each of their body segments. Their name comes from the Greek "polys," meaning many, and "chaite," meaning long hair.

Those near relations, mostly worms from the genus Platynereis dumerilii, just release offspring into the water column to fend for themselves. Scientists previously thought that the volcanic-vent worms living near the Italian island of Ischia did this too--that on full moons, they swam to the surface and broadcast their eggs, according to a release.

However, the scientists say that 12 of the 13 species near Ischia produced fewer and larger eggs that were usually within a protective sac. Even when the worms were bred in a lab, this result occurred. As it turned out, the worms by the vent had diverged from the original genus of Platynereis dumerilii in the recent past, as a genetic analysis showed.

The worms' adjustment is just one step in learning which species will adjust, and how, to climate change in marine environments, researcher Noelle Lucey said in the release. 

Follow Catherine on Twitter at @TreesWhales

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