The velvet worm hunts by bombarding its prey with a double barreled burst of slime. Now, scientists have figured out how these ooze-cannons work.
GIF via NatGeoWild.
Researchers led by Andrés Concha, of Adolfo Ibañez University in Santiago, used high speed video to determine that the velvet worm's flailing slime cannons move too quickly to be caused by muscular contractions. They also put velvet worms under the microscope to observe their slime glands – soft, accordion-like tubes called "oral papillae" that can fold and unfold in rapid succession. As National Geographic's Mary Bates explains:
Connected to the oral papillae is a reservoir system where slime is stored. The reservoir contracts and drives the slime through a small duct in the papilla, a syringe-like action that accelerates the slime's movement.
The papillae then work like a garden hose—as the slime travels through them, the glands' soft, elastic nozzle waves around, causing the goo to form a net of slime.
"Our analyses show that muscles are not needed," says Concha.
Read more about their findings, which were published in last week's issue of Nature Communications, at National Geographic.