Making a stinkCompared to most of the tiny mud-dwelling invertebrates in Puget Sound, this month’s critter, the Pacific Stinkworm, is a giant - and it has a gigantic stench to match.
Although this pungent phenomenon is not well-studied, it is generally thought to be a chemical defense mechanism used to deter predators. There has also been speculation by scientists that the smell is a byproduct of microbial fermentation in the gut of Travisia – that is, the worms use symbiotic bacteria in their digestive systems to help obtain nutrients from their food.
A great face for radioTravisia pupa is conspicuous on muddy ocean bottoms from Alaska to Mexico, growing to the whopping size of 8 cm long (a little over 3 inches) and 3 cm wide. With its fat, grub-like body and covering of wart-like vesicles, it’s not likely to win any beauty contests, but we think it might qualify for Miss Congeniality.
Close-up of the underside of the head, showing the mouth.
Warts and all
LEFT: Live specimen of Travisia pupa, ventral (bottom) view;
Photo by the BIO Photography Group, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario,
courtesy of CreativeCommons
RIGHT: Close-up of the body, showing branchiae and vesicles.
By: Dany Burgess & Angela Eagleston, Environmental Assessment Program
|Dany gets up close |
and personal with a
Stinkworm under the
In each issue we will highlight one of the Sound’s many fascinating invertebrates. We’ll share details on identification, habitat, life history, and the role this critter plays in the sediment community. Can't get enough benthos? See photos from our Eyes Under Puget Sound collection on Flickr. Look for the Critter of the Month on our blog.