New Species of Fan Worm Discovered in Hurricane Hole

FanWormMaine researcher discovers new species of sea worm
By Kaitlin Schroeder Morning Sentinel

A member of the University of Maine at Farmington faculty was credited recently with discovering a new genus and species of marine worm, which she first spotted near the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Five years ago, Nancy Prentiss, a UMF lecturer in biology, was snorkeling at Hurricane Hole off St. John, an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, when on the underside of a rock she found fanworms unlike any she had seen before.

At the time of the discovery, Prentiss, who had been teaching UMF students and working as an ecology camp science educator on the island, said she knew immediately the red-and-white worms protected by coiled calcium carbonate tubes were a unique find.

“I had never seen fanworms like these before and knew immediately I was looking at something special,” Prentiss said.

After years of painstaking research, working with experts in Greece and the Netherlands on eliminating the possibility that the worms were part of an existing genus or species, Prentiss published her work on the find in December in the academic journal Zootaxa.

“It’s not just a new species, but a whole new genus,” she said by phone Wednesday. A genus is a biological classification of plants or animals… read complete article

The newly discovered worm Turbocavus secretus is named for the location where it was found with “Turbocavus” referring to Hurricane Hole.

Specimens of the new fanworm species now are deposited permanently in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. In nature, they have been found only “attached to the undersides of rocks, firmly embedded in fine sediment,” according to the Zootaxa article….

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