What’s up, everybody! On today’s post, I will talk a bit more about one of the animals I work with for my EvoCELL project titled “The evolution of Panarthropoda from a cell type perspective.”
Who is it?
This buddy is a worm, a special kind of worm. People usually call it “velvet worm” because of its velvety blue, water-proof skin. This skin is covered with tiny bumps that are very sensitive to touch and smell. Its little stubby feet have each a hooked claw (the name of its phylum is ONYCHOPHORA, which means claw-bearer), these retractable claws help it hold onto rough surfaces. But don’t let its tender-to-touch, fluffy appearance fool you, this cute looking animal is a DEADLY predator.
What does it eat?
To prevent losing water when it breathes through its skin (kinda like insects do!), the velvet worm hides between moist rotted logs and leaf litter. For this reason, it hunts at night using an infallible, lethal weapon: SLIME. This sticky and transparent substance traps the targeted prey (crickets, woodlice, shrimp-like crustaceans, among other bugs), and then, the velvet worm bites it injecting saliva. The saliva has the role of liquefying the prey for better digestion.
Where does it live?
This blue velvet worm lives only in Australia, mainly in Kanangra-Boyd National Park, New South Wales.
Why this animal?
Now, this little fella is full of juicy little secrets that are hidden in its embryonic development, morphology, and evolutionary history, which is why I chose it as the subject of my project. Velvet worms are closely related to spiders, centipedes, millipedes, crustaceans, insects, etc. However, their body structures have not changed much after 500 million years, and that makes velvet worms like Euperipatoides kanangrensis good models for the last common ancestor to these animals I just mentioned.
Want to know more about it?
You can find more information about velvet worms checking the links below: