Large tubeworms living in the cold depths of the Gulf of Mexico may be among the longest living animals in the world. This is revealed in a study in Springer’s journal The Science of Nature. According to lead author Alanna Durkin of Temple University in the US, members of the tubeworm species Escarpia laminata live around 100 to 200 years, while the longevity of some even stretches to the three century mark.
Escarpia laminata is a type of tubeworm that lives in cold seeps found between 1000 meters and 3300 meters deep on the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Hydrogen sulphide, methane and other hydrocarbon-rich fluids seep out of these vents.
Because so little is known about this species and its life history, Durkin and her colleagues set out to estimate its lifespan. The team also wanted to find out if it is as long-lived as other types of tubeworms living in cold seeps in shallower waters, such as Lamellibrachia luymesi and Seepiophila jonesi.
They collected and marked 356 tubeworms at different locations in the Gulf of Mexico and measured how much these grew over the course of one year. This method for modelling annual growth was first developed to calculate the age of Lamellibrachia luymesi, which is estimated to live up to 250 years. The average individual growth model was then extended to also include death rates and recruitment rates to construct a population-wide simulation. In the process, the age and growth rates of the individual tubeworms collected could be estimated.
The individual and population level approaches indicate that larger Escarpia laminata individuals live longer than 250 years. An Escarpia laminata tubeworm fifty centimeters in length is predicted to be 202…