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Even Poisonous Sea Creatures Can't Escape the Bobbit Worm's Jaws

Bobbit worm
A Bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois) waits for its prey in its burrow among dark sand. Sirachai Arunrugstichai/Getty Images

If you're easily frightened or been watching too many horror movies lately, you're better off reading a more pleasant story. But if you continue, be prepared to have another thing to keep you up at night.

The Eunice aphroditois, better-known as the Bobbit worm, is a terrifying creature that viciously attacks and drags its prey into the dark depths of the ocean with such speed and strength that it sometimes slices its prey in half.

So how did it get that name? Remember the Bobbitt Family case of 1993? That's the one where Lorena Bobbitt took revenge on her cheating husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, by chopping off his ... yes, unfortunately that, with a kitchen knife while he slept. 

Dr. Terrence Gosliner, senior curator and dean of science and research collections at the California Academy of Sciences, spotted the worm during a 1992 trip to the Philippines and named it after Bobbitt in his 1996 book "Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific."

"Basically the ability to use those massive jaws to cut the spinal cord of a fish was something that reminded me of what Lorena Bobbitt did to her husband," he told the Great Big Story. (Unlike the unfortunate man, the worm's name is usually spelt with one "t.")

Luckily for John Bobbitt, surgeons reattached his body part after nine hours of surgery. But the Bobbit worm's prey aren't so lucky.

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Beware of the Worm From Hell

The Bobbit worm lives in the sedimentary beds of warmer oceans in the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It's been seen in Australia, Bali, Indonesia, Fiji, New Guinea and the Philippines among other places. It burrows at least 9 feet (2.7 meters) deep in the ocean's seabed waiting for its prey to swim by.

With two eyes that are practically useless, and five wormlike antennas, it waits ... and waits ... and waits for the right opportunity to snatch and drag its prey to the underground. And for that reason, researchers gave the worm its other nickname – the hell worm.  

Don't believe me? Watch for yourself in this terrifying video below.

From its glittery, iridescent, spiked exoskeleton to its bone-hard hooks, bear-trap jaw and sharp teeth, the Bobbit worm's prey don't stand a chance. If this worm was any bigger, we 'd be in trouble.

The largest Bobbit worm recorded was almost 10 feet long (299 centimeters) and just under 1 pound (433 grams). But the average size of a Bobbit is around the size of a human arm, 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters) and a couple inches wide.

University of Basel (Switzerland) anatomy professor Daniel Haag-Wackernagel, who studied the Bobbit worm from 2012–2016 in Indonesia, says it's a "super organism." 

"Extremely fast, the nightmare of all fish living in the same area," he says via email.

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Are You Safe Around the Bobbit Worm?

The Bobbit worm is an omnivore, which is an animal that eats both plants and animals. It usually preys on fish, snails and sea stars. It hides its long body underneath the seabed, pokes its head out and ambushes its prey during the day. It actively hunts at night. As seen in the video above, even poisonous creatures and octopuses are no match for the hell worm.

"Bobbits are ambush predators that are able to kill large amounts of their prey," Haag-Wackernagel says. "[It's a] well-adapted Annelid for a life in the sand. In this empty, desert-like biotop it is extremely important to own an effective survival strategy."

Annelids are segmented worms with tubular bodies. Well-known examples are leeches and earthworms. Bobbits fall under the Polychaeta class of annelids, which are marine worms that inhabit reefs and have a ton of bristle-like hairs.

Imagine seeing a group of Bobbit worms in one place. Well, Haag-Wackernagel once found five Bobbit worms in the same diving spot of around 5,381 square feet (500 square meters).

Still, humans are not on the menu. Not normally.

"Bobbits are relatively rare, one has to know the sites where they live," Haag-Wackernagel says. "They don't attack divers. Maybe if you stick your finger in the burrow and the worm confuses it with a prey ...." 

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