Mystery Black and White-striped Worms Could be Ribbon Worms

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“I recently saw a program on Discovery Plus entitled ‘MYSTERY AT BLIND FROG RANCH’, states this reader in his submission. He does not attach any photos, but he does provide ample context: “A variety of apparently a marine “worm” was found that I cannot find any information on. The worm is around 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, appears to be segmented, is basically white with black banding which appears to be approximately 1/4 inch in size with 3/8 to 1/2 inches between bands. I would appreciate any assistance you could provide in naming these worms.”

Since we do not have any photos, and the Discovery Plus program could not even identify the worms, we can also only grasp at straws. Based on our reader’s description though, we suppose he could be talking about cinnabar moth caterpillars. Usually these caterpillars are black with yellow or orange stripes, but they can also have such light yellow stripes that they appear white. The moths tend to come out around the summertime, which consolidates our reader’s discovery of the caterpillar. That said, these caterpillars are not marine worms, though our reader does indicate that the worms are “apparently” marine worms, not that they definitely are; the ambiguity of the information our reader provides does make it a tad hard to provide anything concrete.

Ribbon Worm Photo Courtesy of the University of Florida’s ‘Florida Museum’

With that said, if these worms are truly marine worms, we suppose they could be ribbon worms. These worms typically live in the ocean, and there are several species of them, some of which are striped like the ones our reader describes, and some of which are not. They are predatory worms, and, like some species of snakes, are able to expand their jaws to twice the width of their bodies to swallow fish, crustaceans, and other worms whole. They also possess a unique appendage called the proboscis, which in some species possesses a toxin which, when they stab their prey with their proboscis, will paralyze them. For this reason, we urge our reader to approach any of these worms with caution: even though they would not possess enough toxins to paralyze a human body, it could cause irritation and/or pain if our reader got stung with the proboscis.

To conclude, we cannot definitively say what our reader found, as there are plenty of black and white-striped worm-like organisms in the world. If they are not marine worms, they could be cinnabar moth caterpillars, but if they are, they could be ribbon worms. We hope this proves helpful to our reader, and we wish him the very best!

 

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Summary
Mystery Black and White-striped Worms Could be Ribbon Worms
Article Name
Mystery Black and White-striped Worms Could be Ribbon Worms
Description
"I recently saw a program on Discovery Plus entitled 'MYSTERY AT BLIND FROG RANCH', states this reader in his submission. He does not attach any photos, but he does provide ample context: "A variety of apparently a marine “worm” was found that I cannot find any information on. The worm is around 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, appears to be segmented, is basically white with black banding which appears to be approximately 1/4 inch in size with 3/8 to 1/2 inches between bands. I would appreciate any assistance you could provide in naming these worms."
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Author: Worm Researcher Anton

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