Mysterious thread-like worms that wiggle through snow
A strange and generally ignored creature lives on the mountaintop glaciers of the Pacific Northwest. They’re microscopic, thread-like worms that squirm their way through snow and ice. You read that correctly, ice worms!
Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR’s science correspondent, talks to Emily about how they live in extreme climates and why scientists don’t understand some of the most basic facts about them.
These thread-like worms, each about an inch long, wriggle up in a swarm late in the afternoon in the summer to do — what? Scientists are puzzled. It’s just one of many mysteries surrounding these worms, which have received little attention despite being the most prolific animal living in the snow and ice.
“There are so many,” says Hotaling, a Washington State University researcher. A single glacier can support up to 5 billion ice worms.
“From where we’re standing right now, I can see, five, six, 10 glaciers.”
“And if everyone hosts that density of ice worms? That is just a massive amount of biomass in a place that is generally biomass-poor,” he added.
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