Thalassematid echiuran, 2013 Digital photograph, by Arthur Anker.

Astonishing Animals – The Spoonworm

These six different images depict one obscure marine animal, captured by one dedicated photographer

Some of the greatest image makers in our new book Animal: Exploring the Zoological World, focus on our more familiar animals, such as horses, dogs and African big cats. Yet others excel in picturing far less familiar quarry, with equally astonishing results.

“The colours, textures, translucency and moulded forms in these photographs are suggestive of a glass or resin sculpture, but these are six photographs of the same living animal,” explains our new book, “a species of spoonworm, whose continually pulsating body never looks the same.

“They were fished from the seabed off Papua New Guinea by the German zoologist and photographer Arthur Anker, an expert at finding little-known animals, especially those living in the ocean, and his photographs reveal both the diversity and the often-ethereal beauty of the overlooked creatures with which we share the planet.

“Spoonworms are an obscure group of marine animals that tend to be very difficult to find unless you know what you are looking for. They are burrow dwellers that feed by collecting tiny particles of edible matter suspended in the water. The peristaltic movements of the worm’s body drive water through the burrow allowing the animal to collect these morsels. Much of the spoonworm’s biology is bizarre.


Animal: Exploring the Zoological World
Animal: Exploring the Zoological World

“For example, numerous tiny males, barely visible with the naked eye, live inside each female. This animal – and others like it – have an important lesson to teach about animal diversity: namely, that the appearances and lifestyles of most animals are very alien indeed. To most people, the word ‘animal’ conjures up images of something with fur, feathers or scales – a vertebrate. Work like Anker’s is an important reminder that vertebrates account for just a tiny sliver – less than 5 per cent – of animal diversity.” 

See more of the 300 plus ways we have documented the animals around us throughout time by ordering a copy of Animal: Exploring the Zoological World here. Check out our previous stories from the book on Sir Edwin Landseer's Monarch of the Glen, Underwater photographer Alexander Semenov's Lion's Mane JellyfishCai Guo-Qing's Heritage, Jill Greenberg's Diana Monkey  Nick Veasey's Fruit BatThe Sweat Bee and The Steppe Bison.