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能隐藏多年的凶残攻击者:海洋蠕虫

更新时间:2018-8-16 20:14:17 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Snapping death worms can hide undetected for years
能隐藏多年的凶残攻击者:海洋蠕虫

Good bait comes to worms who wait...

等待的蠕虫迎来了美味的诱饵……

Lurking in the seas of Indonesia is a fearsome predator bearing jaws fringed with razor-sharp spikes. Hapless fish – even predators on the hunt themselves – cannot escape if seized. So sudden and fierce is the snap of its jaws, prey may be sliced instantly in two, as if put to death by a bionic marine guillotine.

一种可怕的捕食者潜伏在印度尼西亚海域,它的下颚长着锋利的尖刺。倒霉的鱼虾——即或它们自己也是正在寻找猎物的捕食者——一旦被捕已逃无可逃。这个可怕的捕食者的颚部撕咬猎物是如此突然而猛烈,猎物可能会被瞬间切成两半,就像被仿生的海洋断头台杀死一样。

The oceans are heaving with fearsome predators, but there is something particularly odd about this one: it is not a clever cephalopod (octopuses and cuttlefish), a sophisticated cetacean (dolphins and whales) or monomaniacal elasmobranch (sharks and rays).

海洋里到处都是可怕的捕食者,但这个捕食者特别奇怪:它不是聪明的头足类动物(章鱼和乌贼),也不是复杂的鲸类动物(海豚和鲸鱼),也不是偏执狂的板鳃类动物(鲨鱼和鳐鱼)。

It is a worm.

它是一种蠕虫。

A polychaete to be precise, a class of bristled worm found in the oceans (and occasionally on land) that are a world apart from the everyday squirming annelids we find in our gardens.

准确地说,这是一种多毛类虫(polychaete),是一种生活在海洋(偶尔也生活在陆地上)的毛足虫(bristled worm),和我们在自家花园里发现每天蠕动的环节动物相差很远。

“Marine worms are not boring at all, they are very different to earthworms – they come in a huge variety of shapes and colours, and live in a wide range of habitats,” says Joana Zanol, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Invertebrates at the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro.

巴西里约热内卢联邦大学(Federal University in Rio de Janeiro)无脊椎动物系的兼职教授赞诺尔(Joana Zanol)说,"海生蠕虫一点也不会让人生厌,它们和蚯蚓非常不同,有各种各样的形状和颜色,生活在各种各样的栖息地,"

“I began to explore their evolution as an undergraduate, looking at their phylogenetic trees – I found myself fascinated by their sheer diversity. That’s how I found myself trapped by the strange animals.”

她说, "我在大学本科时就开始探索海生蠕虫的进化过程,观察它们的系统进化树状图——我发现自己被它们丰富的多样性所迷倒了,自此就陷入了这些奇怪动物的研究中。"

And the Bobbitt worm (Eunice aphroditois, also known as the sand striker) is one of the very strangest. Growing up to 3m in length, the ambush predator buries its long body in the sand, leaving only its mouthparts poking out. At night it spreads wide its jaws and five antennae… and waits. Any unlucky animal – whether it be fish or shrimp, snail or squid – that triggers the sensitive antennae will find itself instantly attacked by a lunging pair of jaws at the end of a iridescent rainbow-coloured segmented tube.

而博比特虫(学名拟鳞磷沙蚕(Eunice aphroditois),也被称为沙前锋)是海生蠕虫中最奇怪的一种。其长度可达3米,这个以伏击方式捕食的蠕虫把自己长长的身体埋在沙子里,只伸出口器在外。晚上,它张开嘴和五个触角……静静等待着。任何不幸的动物——无论是鱼还是虾,蜗牛还是乌贼——只要触动了它敏感的触角,就会被它带有一对锐刺的口器攻击后吞噬。博比特虫这张可怕的嘴位于其闪光的彩虹色的分节弓形身体的末端。

The nickname “Bobbitt” can refer to a variety of large eunicid worms, all of which are cut from the same cloth in lifestyle and appearance: they hide their long bodies in rock, coral or sediment, and ambush prey at night. But the classic “Bobbitt worm” is E. aphroditois. Though biologists have known of it since 1790, the creature was given its sinister nickname in a 1996 field guide, in reference to John and Lorena Bobbitt (millennials who may not have heard of them – look it up). This led to the popular myth that female Bobbitt worms cut off the genitalia of male worms and feed it to their young, which is of course not true: worms not only do not have penises, they are usually hermaphrodites.

"博比特"(Bobbit)这个昵称可以指各种各样的大形沙蚕类虫,它们有着相同的生活方式和外表:它们把自己长长的身体藏在岩石、珊瑚或海底沉淀物中,在晚上伏击猎物。但典型的"博比特虫"是拟鳞磷沙蚕。虽然生物学家早在1790年就知道这种生物的存在,但是要到1996年一本野外冒险指南才给它起了这样一个阴险的绰号,影射约翰和洛蕾娜•博比特夫妇(John and Lorena Bobbitt)。千禧一代人可能没听说过这对夫妇——但可以上网去查查。(译注:1993年遭受丈夫约翰家暴的洛蕾娜趁丈夫熟睡时割下其生殖器,此案件轰动一时。)这就产生了一个广为流传的神话,即雌性博比特虫会切断雄性的生殖器,然后喂养其后代蠕虫。这当然不是真的,博比特蠕虫不仅没有阴茎,而且通常是雌雄同体。

For such a notorious and charismatic animal, celebrated in field guides and zoophile blogs, it is very rarely seen. Zanol recently traveled to East Timor on a National Geographic grant, and didn’t find a single one.

对于这样一种声名狼藉、能力非凡的动物,虽然在野外活动指南和动物爱护者博客中声名远扬,但却非常罕见。赞诺尔最近在《国家地理杂志》(National Geographic)的资助下前往东帝汶探查,但没有找到一只博比特虫。

“I have been trying to see them for a very long time,” she says. She hasn’t even seen the related two species of eunicid worm that live in the coastal areas of Brazil near to her. “I have never seen large specimens alive – only in museums.”

她说,"很久以来我一直试图亲眼看到博比特虫,"她甚至还没见过生活在靠近她家乡的巴西沿海海域的两种沙蚕类虫。"我从来没有见过活着的大型样本——除了在博物馆里。"

So elusive are eunicid worms, they can evade detection in aquarium tanks for years if they are accidentally imported while young and living inside coral or rock. There they can comfortably hide during the day, emerging to snatch fish overnight. There have been numerous cases of fish mysteriously disappearing from tanks for years, even decades, before the worms have been found.

沙蚕类虫是如此的神出鬼没,如果在幼虫时候被意外引进,并生活在水族箱的珊瑚或岩石中,可以在水族箱里藏身数年不被人发现。它们白天可以安稳地躲藏起来,夜间再出来捕鱼。已经有多宗个案,水族箱里的鱼连续几年甚至十余年神秘消失,原因不明,直到这种蠕虫被发现。

In 2013 a metre-long worm was found by staff at Maidenhead Aquatics in Woking, Surrey, which they estimate had been living in the tank for 10 years undetected. An even larger worm was found in 2009 at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, which had been devouring fish and even snapping bits of coral off the tank’s reef installation; the staff nicknamed it “Barry”. Further afield, a 3m long worm was discovered in a mooring raft in Japan's Seto Fishing Harbour in 2009 – one of the largest specimens ever discovered.

2013年,位于英国萨里郡(Surrey)沃金(Working)的迈登黑德水上运动中心(Maidenhead Aquatics)的工作人员发现了一条一米长的蠕虫,他们估计这条蠕虫已经在水箱里生活了10年没被人发现。2009年,在纽基(Newquay)的蓝礁水族馆(Blue Reef Aquarium)发现了一条更大的蠕虫,它一直在吞噬鱼类,甚至咬碎了鱼缸里放置的一些珊瑚礁石;工作人员给它起了个绰号叫"巴里(Barry)"。在更远的地方,2009年,人们在日本濑户渔港(Seto Fishing Harbour)的一个系泊筏上发现了一条3米长的蠕虫——这是迄今为止发现的最大蠕虫样本。

Clandestine hunting in aquarium tanks make for colourful news stories, but the ability of these worms to travel long distances while still small – especially during the larval stage, when they are probably suspended in the water column and not buried in the sand – means they have the potential to spread around the world.

水族馆鱼缸里的秘密狩猎为大众提供了生动有趣的新闻故事,但这些蠕虫在很小的时候已具长途跋涉的能力——尤其是在幼虫阶段,它们可能悬浮在水体中,而不是埋在沙子里——意味着他们具备蔓延到世界各地的可能性,恐怕不是好事。

“Other polychaete worms have become invasive species when transported in ballast water or by the aquarium trade, so Bobbit worms potentially could do a lot of damage if they become invasive species in the same way,” says Anja Schulze, Associate Professor in the Marine Biology Department at the University of Texas. “But we just don’t know, because we know so little about the animals overall.”

德克萨斯大学(University of Texas)海洋生物系副教授舒尔茨(Anja Schulze)说, "其他多毛纲的蠕虫已经由运输船的压舱水(ballast water)或水族贸易成为了入侵物种(invasive species),如果博比特虫也由同样的方式入侵,可能对当地物种造成很大的损害。但我们还不知道实际情况,因为我们对这种动物的整体了解太少。"

We do not know how the worms reproduce, why they have rainbow colouration, how long they live, how fast they grow, if smaller ones are always younger than larger ones, how many different related species there are, what their distribution is, or how abundant they are. For such a famous worm, we still know very little.

我们不知道这种蠕虫是如何繁殖的,为什么它们有彩虹般的色彩,它们能活多久,长得多快。如果个子小的总是比个子大的年幼,它们有多少不同的相关物种?种类分布情况怎样?或者它们的数量有多丰富?对于一种这么有名的蠕虫,我们仍然知之甚少。

“Part of the reason is that it’s not easy to experiment with them in lab settings: raising their larva and raising them to a sexually mature age is not easy to do,” says Schulze. So for now, their reproduction remains a mystery – despite the suggestive moniker.

舒尔茨说,"部分原因是在实验室环境下的研究并不容易:饲养它们的幼虫并把它们抚养到性成熟的年龄也不容易,"因此,就目前而言,它们的繁殖仍然是一个谜——尽管有个暗示性的绰号。

Zanol says in an ideal world, she would have the ability to raise them in the lab, sequence the DNA of as many field specimens as she can, use that data to work out the true shape of the family tree, and then use that to understand global distribution patterns – like the work she has done on other related worms for over a decade.

赞诺尔说,如果各种条件都很理想,她将有能力在实验室里培育这些蠕虫,尽可能多的对其野外标本进行DNA排序,利用这些数据计算出其家族树状图谱,然后以此了解其全球分布格局——像这样的工作她在其他相关蠕虫身上已经做了十多年。

Until that happens, their fearsome reputation for slicing fish in half will precede them.

不过在研究完成之前,博比特虫能把鱼撕咬成两半的可怕形象早已恶名在外。

… and if that wasn’t enough to creep you out, last year Swedish biologists in the journal Nature the discovery of the world’s oldest known “Bobbitt worm”: an extinct 400 million year old fossil of a giant polychaete worm, which they named Websteroprion armstrongi, with jaws several times larger than today’s living “Bobbitt worms”. It’s not in the same family as the modern E. aphroditois, but in a related branch of the giant worm family tree.

……如果这还不足以让你毛骨悚然,看看去年瑞典生物学家们在《自然》(Nature)杂志上宣布发现的世界上最古老的已知"博比特虫":一个灭绝4亿年的巨大的多毛类蠕虫化石,生物学家将其命名为"韦伯斯特欧普利昂•阿姆斯特朗"(Websteroprion armstrongi),它的下颚比今天存在的"博比特虫"大好几倍。它与现代的拟鳞磷沙蚕并不是同一科,而是属于与巨型蠕虫家族有关的一个分支。

“Because the only parts of a worm’s body that tend to fossilize are the jaws, us hardcore nerds focus on those because they contain clues to the evolutionary history of all worms,” says Professor Mats Eriksson of the Lithosphere and Biosphere Science at Lund University and lead author of the study.

瑞典隆德大学(Lund University)岩石圈和生物圈科学系教授埃里克森(Mats Eriksson)说,"因为蠕虫的身体唯一能变成化石的部位是其下颚,我们这些死硬的书呆子专家们就专注于此,因为它们包含所有蠕虫进化历史的线索。" 埃里克森也是该研究的第一作者。

“To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of living forms of worms – they are interesting, but I also find them kind of gross – so in a way, I feel fortunate being a paleontologist. These giant extinct worms have long since died and turned to stone.”

"老实说,我不太喜欢蠕虫的生活方式——它们很有趣,但我也觉得它们很恶心——所以在某种程度上,作为古生物学家我感到很幸运,因为这些已经灭绝的巨型蠕虫早已死亡,变成了石头。"

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