Hesiocaeca methanicola

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Hesiocaeca methanicola
Hesiocaeca methanicola noaa.jpg
H. methanicola
Ice worm closeupNASA.jpg
Close up of the head of H. methanicola
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Class: Polychaeta
Order: Phyllodocida
Family: Hesionidae
Genus: Hesiocaeca
Species: H. methanicola
Binomial name
Hesiocaeca methanicola
Desbruyères & Toulmond, 1998

Methane clathrate deposits in the ocean floor have been found to be inhabited by polychaete worms of the species Hesiocaeca methanicola. The worms colonize the methane ice and appear to survive by gleaning bacteria which in turn metabolize the clathrate.

In 1997, Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, discovered the worm living on mounds of methane ice at a depth of half a mile (~800 m) on the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico.[1] Fisher reported that experiments with live specimens showed that mature worms could survive in an anoxic environment for up to 96 hours. The experiments also showed that the larvae were dispersed by currents, and died after 20 days if they did not find a place to feed.


  1. ^ C. R. Fisher, I.'R. MacDonald, R. Sassen, C. M. Young, S. A. Macko, S. Hourdez, R. S. Carney, S. Joye & E. McMullin (2000). "Methane ice worms: Hesiocaeca methanicola colonizing fossil fuel reserves" (PDF). Naturwissenschaften 87 (4): 184–187. doi:10.1007/s001140050700. PMID 10840806. 

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