Name a worm at Museum's Science Uncovered event

23 September 2011

What would you call a deep-sea worm that lives off the rotting carcass of a whale? Whatever your imagination comes up with, bring your suggestions along to the Science Uncovered event tonight at the Natural History Museum and get the chance to name a worm.

What name would you give this deep-sea worm?

What name would you give this deep-sea worm?

There are 5 new species of deep-sea worm that need scientific names. Visitors to tonight’s Science Uncovered can see them and meet the scientists who discovered them as well as submit their name ideas.

Museum zoologist Adrian Glover, who is one of the scientists who discovered the deep-sea bone-eating snot-flower worm in 2005, and who will be on the Zoology Station, explains, ‘The name of a species is very important as it connects all the information that is known about it and is unique.’

‘This is a very exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to Science Uncovered to name a new species.’

Bone-eating snot-flower worms, Osedax mucofloris, living off decaying whale bones on the seabed

Bone-eating snot-flower worms, Osedax mucofloris, living off decaying whale bones on the seabed

The worms will be at the Zoology Station, which is one of 19 science stations where Museum scientists reveal their research and favourite specimens, in the Museum’s largest ever late night event.

Naming a new species

Scientists look at things like the shape, patterns or where an organism lives for inspiration when naming new species.

However, there are rules to follow, and these include having 2 words, one for the genus and one specific to the species. This unique name must also be Greek or Latin. So for example in Homo sapiens, Homo is the genus and sapiens is the species within that genus.

Close up of the head of one of the unnamed deep sea worms

Close up of the head of one of the unnamed deep sea worms

The genus for these unnamed worms is Ophryotrocha so it will be the second part of the name that visitors to Science Uncovered will be able to suggest.

Glover adds, 'Our goal is to show that taxonomy, the scientific discipline of naming new species, is interesting, fun and crucial to the advancement of science. It gives names to new species linked to actual specimens held in museums, which means we can continue to develop the database of biodiversity on Earth.'

Deep-sea worms from Antarctica

The unnamed worms were found on the sea floor in the Antarctic. The deep sea is both the largest and least explored ecosystem on the planet. These worms are among several thousand new marine species scientifically described each year by marine taxonomists.

They were found in a variety of marine habitats, including hydrothermal vents, rotting carcasses of dead whales and areas of polluted by humans, such as underneath fish farm cages and in some harbours.

The Science Street Team outside Tate Modern promoting Science Uncovered

The Science Street Team pass the Tate Modern, London, to promote the Museum's Science Uncovered event.

The worms are from a group called annelids that includes the familiar earthworm. In the deep sea, annelids are very diverse and scientists believe they perform vital recycling of nutrients on the seabed.

Science Uncovered at the Museum

Science Uncovered is part of the European Researchers' Night, which sees events taking place in 300 cities.

As well as the science stations, the Museum’s Science Uncovered event also has behind-the-scenes tours, films, a natural history roadshow, soapboxes, science fight clubs, debates, food and drink and more.

Adrian Glover is taking part in the public debate, Losing Our Principles? at 8:30pm with other speakers including David de Rothschild. They will be discussing whether we are losing our principles because of our global appetite for natural resources.

If you can't come to the Museum today but still want to take part and suggest a name for a worm, you can do so by using #nameaworm #SU2011 on Twitter. To keep in touch with what's going on follow the Museum's Twitter feed @NHM_London.

Science Uncovered is on from 4pm to 11pm in the Natural History Museum.

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