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Bloodworm: Why does the red worm have metallic teeth?

Bloodworm: Why does the red worm have metallic teeth?

The red worm, also known as the bloodworm, has metallic teeth that have long occupied science. However, a study was published in the scientific journal Theme Finally shed light on the main reasons behind this peculiar feature of this animal of the genus Glycera.

Basically, this venomous ferocious worm has four compound copper teeth, which are used for biting prey and fighting competitors. The jaws of the bloodworm are 10% copper crystals and are so hard that one set lasts about five years (which is very little for the age of the species).

The teeth can act as an auxiliary factor, increasing the speed of the poison’s effect on the victim. According to a recent article developed by researchers at the University of California, the secret behind these mineral canines is a protein composed primarily of glycine (an amino acid with antioxidant and immune-modifying properties) and histidine (also an amino acid, with participation in glucogenic and in protein structure).

Proteins help form the metallic fangs of the bloodworm (Photo: Wonderly et al., 2022/Mater)

The red caterpillar begins with a protein precursor, which collects the copper to concentrate it in a viscous liquid. The copper protein is then used to catalyze the conversion of the amino acid derivative into melanin, a polymer that gives jaw the mechanical properties reminiscent of metals. Through this process, the worm is able to easily manufacture a substance that, if created in a laboratory, would rely on a complex process that involves many different devices, solvents, and temperatures.

“Bloodworms are very bad because they are moody and can be easily provoked. They concluded that when they encounter another worm, they usually fight it off using their brass jaws as weapons.”

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source: ThemeAnd EurekAlert!

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