17 February 2012

Sand Castle Worm - Cecilia Rudström

Sandcastle Worm                                
Cecilia Rudström, week 1

The sandcastle worm, also called honeycomb worm, is a reef-forming marine polychaete worm belonging to the family Sabellarididae. It is dark brown in colour with a crown of lavender tentacles. This sea creature live in large colonies, on the cost of Califonia, where they builds large honeycomb-like tube reefs, often seen on rocky beaches at medium and low tide. These structures are created on the ocean floor by gluing grains of sand together. The worms remain in their tubes and are almost never seen apart from, when submerged, they extend their tentacles out of the tube to catch food particles and sand grains. At low tide, when above the water, they close the entrance to their tubes with a shield-like operculum made of dark setae.

This adhesive used to bind the sand grains together is very strong, similar to that of many mussels, but most notable it is cured underwater. The fact that the adhesive cure underwater as oppose to many synthetic ones that either do not cure underwater or set too quickly, has fascinated scientists and set the task to develop a whole new generation of synthetic adhesive products. Beyond creating a better adhesive for composites, a structural adhesive able to cure underwater has numerous uses in marine applications and medical uses. Scientists believe a synthetic version of the glue could have applications as a biocompatible medical adhesive, for instance to repair shattered bones, sealing skin cuts, repair of cranio-facial bones etc. 

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