Strange Doings in the South Pacific

 

For most of the year, the Pacific Palolo (sometimes spelled Paolo) work leads a quiet, uneventful existence, dwelling in coral reefs around the Fiji and Samoan Islands. But as spring comes to the south Pacific, strange changes begin to take place in the body of this marine worm.

Many of the muscles and internal structures in the tail of the worm begin to degenerate, while at the same time the reproductive organs rapidly increase in size. The appendages on each ring-segment of this tail section also enlarge and become more like little paddles.

What's all this about? It's all about the Palolo worm's unique response to the age-old mating call: Part of the worm stays safely in the reef, and part swims to the common mating area at the surface. The worm actually forms itself into two separate creatures, one of which will die within hours, after fulfilling its destiny. 

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