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The Mysterious Ice Worm Options
Oscar D. Grouch
Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2021 9:20:15 AM

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Joined: 6/26/2014
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It's Summer, And That Means The Mysterious Return Of Glacier Ice Worms
July 13, 2021 5:07 AM ET


https://www.npr.org/2021/07/13/1011376403/its-summer-and-that-means-the-mysterious-return-of-glacier-ice-worms

High up on Mount Rainier in Washington, there's a stunning view of the other white-capped peaks in the Cascade Range. But Scott Hotaling is looking down toward his feet, studying the snow-covered ground.

"It's happening," he says, gesturing across the Paradise Glacier.

Small black flecks suddenly appear on the previously blank expanse of white. The glacier's surface quickly transforms as more and more tiny black creatures emerge. The ice worms have returned, snaking in between ice crystals and shimmering in the sun.

These thread-like worms, each only about an inch long, wiggle up en masse in the summertime, late in the afternoon, to do — what? Scientists don't know. It's just one of many mysteries about these worms, which have barely been studied even though they're the most abundant critter living up there in the snow and ice.

Billions and billions of inch-long black creatures

"There are so many," says Hotaling, a researcher at Washington State University. An estimated 5 billion ice worms can live in a single glacier.

"From where we're standing right now, I can see, five, six, 10 glaciers," he says. "And if every one hosts that density of ice worms? That is just a massive amount of biomass in a place that is generally biomass-poor."

There are more mysteries than there are solved things, with ice worms.

Scott Hotaling, glacier biologist, Washington State University

For a long time, he says, high-altitude glaciers like these have been written off by biologists as basically sterile, lifeless places. Ice worms, however, show that this fragile environment — where the glaciers are vulnerable to climate change and are retreating — is potentially far more complicated.

"If you were going to put a biological mascot on glaciers of the northwest," says Hotaling. "It's an ice worm."

And yet, with the possible exception of the annual Cordova Ice Worm Festival in Alaska, these bizarre worms have generally been either ignored or treated as a mere curiosity.

The National Park Service's visitor's center near Paradise Glacier, for example, has a nice display on alpine wildlife, says Hotaling, "and there is somehow nothing about ice worms. And it is a source of frustration for me."

He admits that it bothers "probably no one else that comes here." Many people who hike, ski, or work on these mountains have never seen an ice worm, despite their abundance, partly because the beasts only come to the surface at certain times of the year, at certain times of day.


[continued]




JayPescuma ©
Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2021 11:46:12 AM

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Joined: 2/20/2015
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Location: Marília, Sao Paulo, Brazil
This shows how incredible nature can be, for I've never thought such thing would exist.
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2021 3:32:39 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/21/2009
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Location: Helsinki, Southern Finland Province, Finland
Never heard of those before. Thanks for the info.

EDIT:

Our adders usually wake up from their hibernation in April. There might be some snow still on the ground, so those vipers wriggle their way from their winter nests up on the snow blanket to enjoy the first warmth of spring sun. But not like the masses as these worms.
Snozyfoxla245
Posted: Friday, August 20, 2021 12:57:26 AM

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Joined: 8/20/2021
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Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Just shows amazing nature is.
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