Giant Gippsland Earthworms
There are approximately 1,000 species of native earthworms in Australia, including the Giant Gippsland Earthworm. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, it is the longest species. The Giant Gippsland Earthworm has a pinkish-grey body with a dark purple head. They are often uncovered during digging. Injuries sustained by being dug out of their burrows or direct handling by humans will almost certainly kill them. They are very fragile.
Of the many species of worms, the bristleworm is one of the most dangerous. Bristleworms are elongated segmented worms. Each segment contains a pair of bristles. Although bristleworms are not aggressive, they bite when handled, and the bristles can penetrate skin (sting). Use heavy gloves if handling is necessary. Their coloration (see Image 2) is variable. Bristleworms are often found under rocks and corals in tropical areas throughout the world.
In 1998, University of Delaware marine biologist Craig Cary and his colleagues made national headlines when they discovered that hydrothermal vents harbor the most heat-tolerant animal on Earth.
The Pompeii worm (Alvinella pompejana) — a fuzzy gray, critter about as long as a hand, sporting tentacle-like, scarlet gills on its head — can survive a bath as hot as 176°F.
While some bacteria can live at even higher temperatures, Dr. Cary says the Pompeii worm ranks as the most heat-tolerant among higher-order life forms. It beat out the Sahara Desert ant, which formerly held the record at 131°F.
Ice Worms off the coast of Alaska
Thriving in conditions that would turn most living things to Popsicles, these inch-long earthworm cousins inhabit glaciers and snowfields in the coastal ranges of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They move through seemingly solid ice with ease and are at their liveliest near the freezing point of water. Warm them up slightly and they dissolve into goo.
Worms living in methane ice
A team of university scientists using a mini research submarine on a NOAA-funded research cruise has discovered, photographed, and sampled what appears to be a new species of centipede-like worms living on and within mounds of methane ice on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, about 150 miles south of New Orleans.
Although scientists had hypothesized that bacteria might colonize methane ice mounds, called gas hydrates, this is the first time animals have been found living in the mounds.