A fluffy mammal? A furry tail? Believe it or not, this is a mollusc!

01_Amboherpia_heterotecta Elena Gerasimova

Well, this certainly isn’t the image that springs to mind when you think of molluscs – but the more recognisable snails, oysters and octopus only represent three out of the eight living groups. This beautiful creature is a solenogastre, one of the two vermiform (worm-like) molluscan groups. Solenogastres are found in oceans across the world, from depths ranging from about 30 metres down to the abyssal. They have a long, slender body covered in a chitinous cuticle, bearing the thousands of spicules which give the glossy, furry appearance seen here. Beneath the fuzz, solenogastres have a small foot, like a snail’s, tucked away in a groove on their ventral (‘belly’) side. They too produce mucus to help them glide across sandy surfaces, in search of their cnidarian prey. They have no eyes, and arguably not even a head, giving them an almost tribble-like appearance!

Image courtesy of Elena Gerasimova. Read more about solenogastres here.

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