4.06.2013

Palolo Worm

Palolo Worm
One species of polychaete worm—the Eunice viridis, or palolo worm—is cause for celebration in Samoa. Palolos are about 12 inches (30.5 cm) long and live in burrows in the coral reef. Their bodies are made up of two different kinds of segments.
 
The anterior section contains the worm’s organs, while the posterior section, called the epitoke, is a string of segments that contain gametes. One or two nights a year in October or November, worms crawl out of their burrows on the reef floor, and their epitokes break off. The pink and blue-green epitokes swirl to the surface like thousands of strands of colored spaghetti. Each segment is equipped with eyespots that are sensitive to light, ensuring that they move toward the sparkling light at the water’s surface. During the night, the epitokes dissolve, and by morning the egg and sperm are released.

Natives of Samoa have a celebration and feast on “worm night.” Using lights to attract the epitokes, they wade out into the surf and scoop up the worm segments. The worms are regarded as a delicacy, very much like caviar, and many choose to eat them raw on the spot. Some celebrants prefer to save their worm segments until the next day, when they can cook them in butter or bake them in a loaf of bread.