The fish tank’s owner knew that something had been eating his coral, but after two years of searching he still hadn’t identified the culprit. Then, as he was taking the aquarium apart, he first caught sight of the creature responsible for the coral theft. And when he finally saw it, he couldn’t believe his eyes – it was practically a monster.
That surprised man was a social media user known as gurutek, who in August 2012 uploaded an astonishing video to YouTube. As a tropical fish enthusiast, gurutek had a variety of exotic marine life in his large tank. The YouTube recording in question revealed, however, that a true horror of the deep had also been lurking within the vessel.
Before gurutek had put his video online, though, he had had suspicions that something wasn’t right about the tank – or, rather, its contents. And those suspicions had arisen after he had noticed an unusual phenomenon that none of the fish within could have been responsible for: specifically, the coral in the container was going missing.
Indeed, to gurutek, this was a clear indication that there was an unwanted presence in the fish tank. And not only was the coral noticeably absent, but a lot of it had also disappeared suddenly. “[I] only noticed because I had whole coral colonies missing after a single evening,” gurutek subsequently wrote on YouTube.
So, as gurutek wanted to identify the uninvited guest, he staged an old-fashioned stakeout. “I first saw it after I spent a few nights [sitting] up [after lights went out],” gurutek explained in his comments. “[I waited] for about three hours per night looking for the critter.”
And when the tank owner finally spotted the creature, he may have been surprised at its identity. That’s because the creature was none other than a Bobbit worm, and it was rather far from home. Bobbit worms are usually found in warm oceans, in fact, buried in the seabed.
Somehow, though, one example had hitchhiked a ride into gurutek’s fish tank and then started munching the contents. But even though gurutek was aware of its presence, the Bobbit worm remained elusive. What’s more, it seemed entrenched in its new home, meaning that simply removing the intruder was not an option.
“I only ever saw it three times within the space of a year,” gurutek wrote. “It [hid] in the rocks, and only [came] out at night. [It was] impossible to catch without taking everything out the tank.” And that’s exactly what he did eventually.
Indeed, in 2012 gurutek was deconstructing the tank with the intention of moving it to a new location. And while it’s unclear precisely how it happened, the Bobbit worm’s tail was severed in the process. That did little to diminish its huge size, however.
Then, when the worm was finally unearthed from its hiding place in the aquarium, its full length was revealed. And gurutek estimated the creature to measure up at almost four feet long. He and friends subsequently watched the huge Bobbit worm in amazement; they were particularly struck by its “tail.”
That may have been because the severed lower half of the worm was still floating in the tank and was even wiggling around independently. And, as it turned out, YouTube users were also fascinated by the sight of the Bobbit worm; to date, gurutek’s video has received almost eight million views.
Yet while one person in the footage suggested that they dry and frame the worm – hopefully in jest – viewers of the clip had other ideas. In fact, many of them wanted to be nowhere near the beast. “That thing’s f**king terrifying,” one YouTube commenter wrote. “How do you miss something like that?”
Others, meanwhile, thought that the Bobbit worm was so big that they likened it to an end-of-level video game boss. “That worm deserves a health bar,” one YouTube user joked. But you might be asking yourself whether the creature was actually that big compared to its sea-dwelling brethren.
Well, the Bobbit worm – or Eunice aphroditois, to use its scientific name – can grow much bigger than gurutek’s intruder did. Indeed, the size of the worm in his aquarium was only slightly above average for the species, as there have been recorded specimens that have reached lengths of around ten feet.
And it’s not surprising that gurutek didn’t notice the worm, considering the fact that the unusual-looking creatures typically lie buried until they spot prey. Bobbit worms use their head-mounted antennae to detect movement, and when they do, they strike viciously.
What is surprising, though, is that gurutek had any fish left, as Bobbit worms’ razor-sharp teeth have even been known to strike prey at speeds fast enough to cut fish clean in half. And not only are the worms fast and deadly, but larger sea-dwelling creatures may also fall victim to their toxins. So even if they’re not killed outright, targets may still be left helpless.
However, if gurutek has any ideas as to how the Bobbit worm even got into his aquarium, he hasn’t mentioned them. Still, a clue may come from the species’ mating habits. Specifically, Bobbit worms are known to be broadcast spawners; this means that when a female lays her eggs, they are fertilized externally.
So, perhaps a fertilized Bobbit worm egg was accidentally transferred with one of the fish and hatched in the aquarium. Whatever the reason for the intruder in gurutek’s tank, however, it hadn’t been the first time that one of these worms has made a surprise appearance. A similar incident happened in March 2009, in fact.
Indeed, staff at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Cornwall, England, found damaged coral and evidence of fish attacks, too. And as with gurutek, they subsequently uncovered the worm – which they named “Barry” – when the tank display was being dismantled. What’s more, yet another Bobbit worm was discovered at another English aquarium, Maidenhead Aquatics, in October 2013.
The fate of gurutek’s Bobbit worm, however, is unclear; hopefully, though, it was donated to a sea life center. After all, although not everyone appreciates these potentially destructive worms, they are certainly fascinating. And any opportunity to learn new things about unusual creatures should surely be embraced.