Jabba the Hutt

Jabba the Hutt lurks behind the name of this creepy new species of zombie worm

Contributed by
May 11, 2018, 12:30 PM EDT

What other creature could you possibly name in honor of Jabba the Hutt than a mouthless, eyeless, corpse-eating worm?

Osedax Jabba is one of 14 newly discovered and possibly horrifying species of zombie worm  —a scavenger that is thought to have spawned anywhere from 146-666 million years ago during the Cretaceous period — recently discovered in California’s Monterey Submarine Canyon. It’s far from Tattooine, but you can’t deny the slug-esque resemblance.

Marine biologist Shannon Johnson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute told Earther that she couldn’t resist despite these almost alien life-forms being a writhing mass of females (which the microscopic and parasitic males depend on to survive). The creature’s Hutt looks got her, not to mention that something that thrives 10,000 feet below the surface is just as much of a bottomfeeder as the slimiest crime lord in the Outer Rim.

“Jabba’s not the greatest dude in the world,” she admitted, “and this worm is a giant female. Maybe I should have named it after Leia.”

Leia probably wouldn’t appreciate her signature space buns on this thing.

zombie worm named after Jabba the Hutt

Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Zombie worms get their gruesome name from their appetite for dead things. They use creepy appendages to inject skeletons with acid that dissolves the bone so they can get to the collagen they crave, and even have their own army of bacteria to help them digest it. Meaning, they’re basically sea maggots.

The only way to attract this maggot is dead flesh. Getting Jabba’s relatives to emerge from their own Mos Eisley cantina in the deep involved baiting them with scavenged whale carcasses, which, as if that wasn’t already vomit-inducing enough, Johnson and the rest of research lead Bob Vrijenhoek’s team had to slash with a machete to “ventilate” them (as she put it) before using trashed train wheels to sink them to the watery depths.

Turns out these worms don’t need rotting whale meet to lure them out. The team put all sorts of dead land animals on the menu, and all the osedax species they unearthed took advantage of the free buffet.

Jabba would do that.

(via Earther)