Barry the Coral Ripper

For the last few months, a killer stalked the streets of Cornwall... or more specifically, the water of Cornwall, and even more specifically, the living reefs exhibit at Newquay's Blue Reef Aquarium. Day after day, aquarists would return to the award winning exhibit, only to find once healthy coral ripped apart - in some cases literally ripped in half.

Clues were few and a variety of traps yielded no results. When a gentle tang fish was found greviously injured, they called in Scotland Yard. On a side note, tang is delicious.

Reluctant to remember the incident, Curator Matt Slater finally explained the situation in a whisper, "As part of our tropical marine displays we have been painstakingly propagating a variety of corals. They are extremely slow-growing and every one we have lost to these attacks was a major blow."

Having exhausted all other efforts, the frustrating decision was made to take the exhibit apart piece by piece. Halfway through the process, the terrifying perpetrator was revealed, a monstrous four foot long giant reef worm. Mug shot below:

i-1adf02cffc460e26876b8f589cb763e5-Giant Reef Bristle Worm Newquay.jpg

Proof that there is no god or that he just digs Tremors?

In between sobs, Curator Slater continued, "It really does look like something out of a horror movie! It's over four feet long with these bizarre-looking jaws. Having done some research we also discovered that it is covered with thousands of bristles which are capable of inflicting a sting resulting in permanent numbness'."

Matt believes it probably arrived as a juvenile in a delivery of living rock from another aquarium.

After being carefully removed the worm - which has been nicknamed 'Barry' by staff - has been re-located into its own tank, safely away from the coral where it will be tortured for its crime of being born a bristle worm.

On yet another side note, we used to use "sandworms" for bait when fishing for bluefish in Long Island Sound as a child. One bit me once. I loved almost all living things, but sandworms (and earwigs) and I will never, never, see eye to eyespot.

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That thing is kinda cool.

Earwigs, however, are just icky, and must be killed on sight.

GROSS. I found a tapeworm of some kind swimming once in my grandpa's creek and it was the most traumatizing experience. If I saw this thing I would pass out.

Good grief, man! I had to put a post-it note over the photo just so I could read this. Plus I was in mid-bite on a sandwich at the time. Thanks a lot.

By Mrs. Grackle (not verified) on 20 Mar 2009 #permalink

Cool. Gross, but neat. Definite approach-avoidance conflict I'm feeling here but in a god way.

I was previously unaware such wonders existed. Like an overgrown aquatic centipede; with stingers that evidently do permanent damage.

I'm somewhere between refusing to go into the ocean ever again and calling around to saltwater aquarium shops to see if I can buy one.

as an aquarist, I've encountered many bristle or fire worms in live rock. I've also been stung many times so the permanent numbness claim seems a bit much. There are a variety of species but the size of this one is amazing, maybe legendary.

Oh. My. God.

A long, long time ago there was a thread on the reefcentral aquarium forum about big bristleworms. There were some absolute monsters. Its amazing how long such a big animal can go undetected in an aquarium.

There have been a few other really cool liverock hitchhikers I've heard about too - octopuses, mantis shrimp and even moray eels infiltrating aquaria and wreaking havoc under cover of rock.

yeah, mantis shrimp are cunning, ruthless killers. I've seen a good-sized goby sheared right in half by one.

aaaaaaah D:

DIRTY.

You and I are on the same page Erin, but I think I'd probably run six or seven miles away before I lost consciousness around that thing. Hell, I might not sleep tonight just knowing it exists.

that thing is amazing..i need to do a school project on it

That thing is amazing. It never ceases to amaze how many creatures from the sea look positively alien. Barry puts most sci-fi movie monsters to shame. Great story!

Good on you Ableyman, I always found it such a lack of creativity the four-members-eyeballs-one-mouth-and-a-nose aliens from Hollywood. Even on earth we have living beings so different from that and this worm just prooves it (perhaps we should send it to Spielberg).
But one thing puzzled me: What is the matter with earwigs? we are conducing researches here in Mato Grosso with them on parental care and they never seemed like bad guys to me. Are american earwigs different from ours, perhaps? Do I get the right earwig (http://pics.davesgarden.com/pics/Vee8ch_1155043884_211.jpg)?

Zoological greetings from SB Brazil

Yikes! I wonder what, if anything, would eat a reef worm like this?

By Andy Steinberg (not verified) on 26 Mar 2009 #permalink

I think berry is cool and that you should not torture him. He has a job to do just like most animals. I like this story. Things like this make me wish i had a sub so i cool go look at all the need and freaky animals in the ocean.

Andrew: Whoa. Sandworms. Ya hate 'em, right? I hate 'em myself!

Eduardo: Good call on Hollywood's lack of imagination, irmão.

I was wondering where Barry got off to. We used to hang out in New Jersey together. Come to think of it, the place seems to be a lot nicer now...

My daughter thinks that this is what George Bush will come back as in his next life, with the Karma he has built up for himself. Me too!

Free Barry!

By Sprinkles (not verified) on 03 Apr 2009 #permalink

looks longer than 4 feet

By fleabiscuit (not verified) on 03 Apr 2009 #permalink

@Eduardo

my hatred of earwigs, probably like most americans, comes from the Star Trek movie the rath of khan (I think that's right) where Khan puts these earwig looking bugs into a guys ear canal that burrow into his brain and torture him before he eventually dies. Ever since then I've been irrationally paranoid about being anywhere near earwigs.

Barry's coolio, but Is he a new species? Because they never mention his species, and the aquarium owner guy said he has "Bizarre jaws", like he's an undiscovered species.

By Wobble Obble (not verified) on 04 Apr 2009 #permalink

@ Wobble Obbole, it appears to be a subspecies? An article titled Giant Sea Worm Terrorizes Aquarium by Associated Content refers to the worm as a polychaete worm, or sea worm. Wikipedia has a neat read up on them. Some eat bone others tolerate high temperatures, some are bizarrely shaped. One Lamellibrachia luymesi is a cold seep tube worm that reaches lengths of over 3 meters and may be the most long lived animal at over 250 years old.

I was wondering where Barry got off to. We used to hang out in New Jersey together. Come to think of it, the place seems to be a lot nicer now...

my hatred of earwigs, probably like most americans, comes from the Star Trek movie the rath of khan (I think that's right) where Khan puts these earwig looking bugs into a guys ear canal that burrow into his brain and torture him before he eventually dies. Ever since then I've been irrationally paranoid about being anywhere near earwigs.

wow, a nice one!! there many of such animals which exhibits abyssal gigantism... giant tube worms and giant isopods alike... but this is cool!! keep it up!! cheers...

I just had to look this up again so it could haunt my dreams. AAGH!

We are from the the area of Fresno CA as my wife and I were in the Monterey bay we came across @ 6 to 7 of these ugly creatures as they make a screaming noise as they came to shore. we have picture of this creature and showed people in the area they had no clue we also have video footage of it.

By Rudy Salazar (not verified) on 09 Jun 2010 #permalink

Thats NO proof that theres no God!!!

By Anonymous (not verified) on 20 Sep 2010 #permalink