Friday, 24 July 2009

Palolo worms and moonlight

Although this isn't exactly a full moon fact, it's a moon fact - and a weird one. It does involve moonlight, and moonlight is an important part of my year of moonwalks. Therefore I'm giving this little fellow a chance to breed on my blog.

Talking of breeding.

The Palolo worm - a segmented, sea-dwelling thing - reproduces at fixed points during the year and these periods are synchronised with the lunar phases. Like other marine invertebrates, including corals, this odd little creature depends on moonlight to mate. During early morning of the last quarter of the moon's cycle, it appears on the surface of the water. By now it's ready for action - its backside, equipped with paddles and eyes, has broken away from its body and swum to the surface packed full of reproductive goodness. Spawning then takes places.

This occurs at the same time the following month.

Just to check that the Palolo worm is reacting to moonlight and no other aphrodisiac, scientists have teased the worms with artificial light. Turns out these creatures are so sensitive to light, they react to levels that the human eye can't even pick up.

Rick Stroud in his fascinating The Book of the Moon goes on to tell us that "the reproductive sections of the worm are considered a great delicacy" (for those with strong stomachs click here).

Please don't tell Heston Blumenthal about this delicacy or you'll find those tasty, minty refreshments Polos have gained a chewy texture and extra syllable.

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