What on Earth is the bootlace worm?

I found a video of this weird Venom symbiote-looking thing on Twitter and had to know what it was. Luckily, someone quote tweeted the answer: it was a bootlace worm!

The bootlace worm (Latin name Lineus longissimus) is a species of ribbon worm found in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the longest animals in the world (according to the referenced quote tweet and Wikipedia, one bootlace worm was measured at 180 feet in length in Scotland in 1864 although proboscis may have played into that). Despite their length, they’re only around 5–10 mm in width, hence the “bootlace” name.

Where the Venom similarities comes from a few characteristics:

  • Its thick pungent mucus, which contains a deadly neurotoxin (to crustaceans and mollusks) that protects it from its predators
  • Its ability to extend its body via proboscis
  • Bootlace worms can be hermaphroditic and reproduce through internal fertilization
  • Their regenerative abilities have also been studied (Zattara et al., 2019) as well as their genome sequence (Kwiatkowski et al., 2021)

It’s funny that it can smell like iron as the bootlace worm can look a lot like ferrofluid. Isn’t science amazing?

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