According to a report from the 1800s, a strange creature was found in a coastal environment in Scotland. Although these animals are not unfamiliar to humans living in the area, it has been suggested that this may be the longest animal ever found in the world. In common usage, these animals are known as “bootleg worms”, and ours, found in the 1800s, is about 55 meters long. Although this event has been mentioned many times, there is no official confirmation of the animal’s length. Despite the reliability of those reports, the bootleg worm is generally considered to be a relatively long-growing animal. But bootleg worms are not only special because of their length.
The bootleg worm, scientifically known as Lineus longissimus, belongs to the genus Nermatia according to its biological taxonomy. Members of this genus are also commonly known as ribbon worms. Common in coastal areas of the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Norway, they inhabit shallow seawater on rocky shores, up to 25 feet [25 m] deep. Their body is often black or brown, and their head is purple or blue.
As mentioned earlier, the bootleg worm is considered to be the longest living species in the world. The average bootleg worm can grow up to 5 to 15 meters, but can sometimes grow up to 30 meters in body length. Although they are extremely long-bodied animals, their true length cannot be seen as real. This is because they spend most of their lives adjusting their bodies like a ball of string. Their bodies are less than an inch thick.
Unlike some other sea-dwelling polykeet worms, they do not prey on predators. Instead, they believe that they are designed to absorb nutrients directly through their skin. Perhaps this is why they have evolved into organisms that grow so long that their surface area increases.
This creature is highly susceptible to predators and lives in shallow seawater ponds in low-lying coastal environments. But nature has given these worms a successful defense. Their body is covered with mucus, and this mucus is toxic. When bootleg worms are disturbed, they release large amounts of mucus and cover their bodies. These mucous membranes have been found to be poisonous enough to paralyze or kill insects such as crustaceans and cockroaches.
A group of scientists was anxious to draw the world’s attention to this creature, which hides many secrets of nature and lives very innocently. This was because they were curious to explore the chemical composition of the highly toxic mucus and the possible benefits. Accordingly, a team of scholars from Uppsala University in Sweden, Linnaeus University, and the University of Agricultural Sciences in Sweden joined in this work.
Is Bootleg Worm Toxic to Humans?
Studies have shown that the mucous membranes of bootleg worms contain protein-based neurotransmitters. Thus, the most potent toxin ever recorded from living animals in Sweden is contained in the mucus of the bootleg worm, which is now known as “nemertide alpha-1”.
We have protein molecules in our bodies that regulate the transport of various ions in and out of cells. Researchers have shown that neurotide alpha-1 interferes with the transport of sodium ions through the cells of invertebrates. As a result, there are continuous electrical signals to the nerves and muscles, which eventually paralyze or kill the poisoned predator.
But does this poison affect humans? Scientists are investigating. It was found that the effect of bootleg worm venom on the transport of sodium ions between mammalian cells was not strong. Therefore, researchers believe that these toxins often do not affect humans or other mammals. The scientists who contributed to the research speculated that these findings could be useful in a particular area of the bootleg worm world.
Hope for agriculture
Today, snake, spider, and oyster species with conical shells are used for a variety of purposes, including neurotransmitters, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and agriculture. Going by that, the researchers believe that the venom of the bootleg worm can also be used as a successful pesticide in agriculture. It is highly suitable as an insecticide because the venom of the bottlenose worm clearly affects the insects and does not react vigorously in the presence of mammals including humans. In today’s world pesticides are used that cause serious health problems, even for humans. However, the use of toxic compounds that are naturally produced by animals and do not affect humans will allow them to engage in eco-friendly agriculture.
However, there is still much work to be done to develop this invention into a commercial product. Even so, the scientists believe that bootleg worm poisoning could help humans produce an eco-friendly but powerful insecticide to control crop-borne, disease-causing insect pests in the near future. The bootleg worm is thus to be given more respect than any other animal in the world.