#5272 – Marine Worm (Plankton)
2018 50c Bioluminescent Life
Value: 50¢ 1-ounce first-class letter rate- Forever
Issued: February 22, 2018
First Day City: Fort Pierce, FL
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Printed by: Banknote Corporation of America
Format: Pane of 20
Quantity Printed: 40,000,000 stamps
In deep ocean waters all over the world, small plankton worms glide through the darkness in search of food. If along the way they come across a predator, they release a sparkling flurry of glowing particles. This draws their attacker away, allowing them to escape.
Plankton worms are usually only between 3/4 and 11/2 inches in length. Their bodies are almost entirely transparent, so they can be very hard to see when they are not glowing. The genus to which plankton worms belong, Tomopteris, means “cut wing,” describing how the creature’s parapodia (paddle-like outgrowths) form a fin while they swim through the water.
Most species of plankton worms glow blue and will release bright blue particles from their parapodia. Some species of plankton worms expel eggs or mucus, which also glows.
Additionally, there is a species of plankton worm that glows yellow. Few bioluminescent creatures glow this color, and this is particularly rare of marine creatures. Whether blue or yellow, the practice of expelling glowing particles is essential to the survival of many plankton worms. It provides them with just enough time to swim away from larger predators.