Deep Sea Elvis Worms: New Species with Glittery Looks

Deep Sea Elvis Worms: New Species with Glittery Looks

  • Polynoidae is a family of worms found in saltwater, and they are known as scale worms.
  • The family Polynoidae has five branchiate genera namely Branchipolynoe, Branchinotogluma, Branchiplicatus, Peinaleopolynoe, and Thermopolynoe.
  • All of the genera are native to deep-sea, chemosynthetic-based habitat.
  • Branchiate organisms are animals furnished with gills.[2]
  • Chemosynthetic habitat is an environment where sunlight is not able to reach and living organisms synthesize organic compounds from the reaction involving inorganic chemicals to get their energy.[3]
  • Peinaleopolynoe has two known species namely Peinaleopolynoe sillardi and Peinaleopolynoe santacatalina.
  • Researchers aimed to assess the phylogenetic position of Peinaleopolynoe by studying DNA sequences from a broad sampling of deep-sea polynoids.
  • Several species from all five branchiate genera were used in the analyses.
  • Phylogenetic analyses revealed that four new species of Peinaleopolynoe from the Pacific Ocean have been discovered.
  • The new deep-sea dwellers display iridescent scales which look like Elvis’ iconic jumpsuits hence, they named them Elvis worms.
  • Additionally, researchers observed the presence of ventral papillae on segments 12-15 which reinforced the monophyletic groupings of Peinaleopolynoe.
  • The results also demonstrated the paraphyletic groupings of Branchinotogluma and Lepidonotopodium and that these genera require taxonomic revision.
  • Researchers apply the subfamily name Lepidonotopodinae for the clade comprised of Branchipolynoe, Branchinotogluma, BathykurilaBranchiplicatusLepidonotopodiumLevensteiniella, Thermopolynoe, and Peinaleopolynoe.
  • The researchers do not know why Elvis worms evolved to have such glittery scales since the organisms live in a very dark environment.
  • They speculated that it could be just a side effect of developing thicker scales over time which refract more light.
  • Researchers also said that thicker scales are advantageous when it comes to fighting and survival.


Hatch AS, Liew H, Hourdez S, Rouse GW (2020) Hungry scale worms: Phylogenetics of Peinaleopolynoe (Polynoidae, Annelida), with four new species. ZooKeys 932: 27-74.


[3] Oxford Dictionaries

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