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13 November 2014

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You are in: Cornwall > Nature > Nature Features > Superstar Worm

Barry the Reef Worm

Superstar Worm

A giant sea worm which lives at a Newquay aquarium has become a worldwide phenomenon because of his exploits. Barry, the 4 foot long reef worm hit the headlines after being identified as the culprit who'd been eating through a fragile living coral.

Interest in Barry has been flooding into the aquarium from America, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Equador, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Spain and Switzerland.

He's been on Canada's Discovery Channel, in the Washington Post, and has several Facebook fan sites dedicated to him.

The Blue Reef Aquarium has been told that an American rabbi has also written a poem about Barry.

Barry the Reef Worm

Barry measures an impressive 4ft long

Ben Marshall, senior Aquarist, thinks it's the mystery of Barry's story which has attracted so much interest:

"Given his nature, we've never introduced him into a tank so it's very likely that he's come in as a tiny, tiny baby, literally a millimetre or two long" he's now more than 4 foot long!

They believe Barry found his way to Newquay amongst coral reef which was brought to the aquarium for a new display two years ago.

Barry's secret life amongst the coral was uncovered when the Aquarists noticed that their fragile reef was suffering, for no apparent reason. In some cases the coral had literally been cut in half.

One member of staff saw Barry's head poking through a hole in the rock, so, they staked out the display for several weeks, but eventually decided to take it apart rock by rock to get to him.

The attention is ironic because Barry isn't the most attractive of sea creatures, he's so ugly that staff at the Blue Reef Aquarium weren't originally going to put him on display.

David Waines, the Aquarium Manager says: "Frankly we felt he was just too disgusting, but due to public demand we have now set him up in his very own - coral free - display, where he appears to be thriving."

David says he's dumbfounded by the international interest: "We've been inundated with enquiries and requests for interviews. One PHD student in Australia is actually planning a visit to the UK next year just to meet him."

Barry's rather unattractive head

Barry's rather unattractive head

Ben Marshall says Barry's celebrity status amongst marine biologists stems from his otherwise very private life:

"They're very difficult to even see in the wild, let alone study, so the fact that we've got a large one in captivity is a good opportunity for people to have a closer look."

As for Barry's coral destroying antics, David says: "We're feeding him on an algal-based gel combined with the odd bit of whiting and, as far as anyone can tell, he appears to be perfectly happy."

Fear not... you won't find him enjoying the rock pools around our coast this summer,  he should really be living happily in South East Asia. But just in case, Ben's keeping a very close eye on him: "He's one of the creatures that every morning I check that he's still in his tank because I wouldn't like to find him wandering around the aquarium."

last updated: 08/04/2009 at 13:24
created: 07/04/2009

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