Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dear FBI, we missed your call yesterday when we were out. Please call back!

I go all day at work collecting things to blog about. It keeps me interested and attentive and prevents my ADD from getting in the way of tasks at hand. Unfortunately I've taken to posting in the morning, after the tide of sleep rolls out and takes with it all the mental detritus accumulated from the previous day. So where does it all go? Back out to sea, I guess. (I should be grateful.)

Speaking of the sea, and speaking of detritus, there is one nasty critter slithering around beneath the rocks of my reef aquarium. Referring to my collection of reef critter identification volumes, I've pegged it as a "Bristleworm", which does not please me. It could be any one of the ten thousand or so species from the Polychaete (worm) family, and the behavior on these creatures differs and is poorly understood. It's a nocturnal beasty, and lately seems to be aroused when I feed the fishes at night. Bristleworms smuggle themselves in on the imported live rock, feeding on aquarium detritus -old food, fish crap, and the like. Normally they're a beneficial critter, cleaning up after everyone. They're beneficial and irrelevant because they're usually about an inch long, but the one in my living room is at least six inches long. I'm not sure of his total length because he's never fully out in the open -I just see his bristled segments sliding past in the dark spaces between the rocks, ad infinitum. Shine a flashlight on him and he speeds up.

So I guess there's not enough fish crap for him. He'll probably start eating the corals soon, if I fail to feed him. He's like the monster in The Little Shop of Horrors, or some other Sci-fi flick, and it's beginning to worry me, lest I become a slave to the appetite of the family bristleworm. I could have him removed via some trap I suppose, but I'll keep this handy.

The gruesome weirdness of this creature cannot be understated. It has a proboscis with folded in teeth that can shoot out when "hunting or alarmed" as one book says. (Oh, great.) Aquarists call them "fireworms" because that's what it feels like when you accidentally rub against their bristles when you're unwittingly rearranging the rocks in your tank. You could try killing him if only you could get to him, but he's a Polychaete, as I mentioned, which means that if cut in half you'll suddenly have two of them, munching on your expensive corals on either side of the tank. There are a few natural predators, some crustaceans, that I could procure to go after him, but from what I've read they won't take on a worm this size, and then they'll just start eating your pretty fish. I imagine that that would leave you with a graveyard of a tank, with an ugly worm on one side and a nasty crab on the other, hating one another like bad neighbors. And I don't need those bad vibes in my home.

Here's a picture of a typical Bristleworm (not mine, who eludes the camera):

Just look at that ugly head!

It could be worse. It could be a Mantis Shrimp. I've heard stories of the hidden razor-sharp dagger that the Mantis Shrimp ejects in a flash, lobbing off the tips of fingers and, in some cases, cracking whole tanks. Take a gander at this beauty, which every aquarist who has ever encountered one will tell you is the most loathsome creature in all the hobby!

If Science Fiction writers ever run out of material, there's plenty of untold stories from beneath the sea.