While pier fishing with her mother, Alyssa Ramirez thought a piece of seaweed had tangled with her bait when she reeled it in, until she saw it squirming. She had caught a bizarre sea creature, one you could call hazardous to your health.
Ramirez made the odd catch on Saturday from a pier in Port Isabel, Texas, and later, curious to know what it was, sent video to Texas Parks and Wildlife and asked officials to identify it, which they did Wednesday.
As it turns out, it was a bearded fireworm, which can inject a powerful neurotoxin from its tiny bristles on its flanks that can result in a wound that feels like it’s on fire, and the pain can last for hours.
“Luckily I didn’t have to touch it because it let go of my bait,” Ramirez said. “By the way it moved and the red colors it had, I knew not to touch it. I placed it on the rail of the pier I took video and pictures of it…It wiggled around for a few minutes and then it then fell into the water by itself.”
Also on FTW Outdoors: Spearfisherman dragged out to sea by great white shark
From the Animal Kingdom, the word aposematism comes to mind. It’s the advertising by an animal to predators that it is not worth eating, that it could be foul tasting or, in this case, toxic, and bright colors are an indicator.
It’s generally no more than a few inches long, but one touch can be a big problem…
The bearded fireworm is found in warm, shallow waters in and around the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico. It looks a bit like a fuzzy caterpillar. Its body can be green, orange, or other bright colors, and small tufts of white bristles line its sides, creating the “fuzzy” appearance.
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