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This giant worm is spreading on Mediterranean beaches, it is a scourge for vacationers

After the jellyfish, it's the "fireworm" which could spoil the pleasure of bathers in summer: its burns are sharp and can cause nausea.

À As summer approaches, vacationers are accustomed to summer vacations. You can also see signs on some of their favorite beaches that say “caution jellyfish". But this year, another marine animal could spoil the joy of swimmers. For some time, biologists from the Sicilian centers of Panarea and Milazzo, attached to the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics (OGS), are worried about the arrival of a worm with stinging abilities on the beaches of the Mediterranean. This is a marine worm Named for Hermodice caruncutala, normally present off the island of Malta and the coasts of the Maghreb, which is found today in the sand and seagrass of the northern coasts of the Mediterranean. 

Closer to the centipede than to the earthworm, the fireworm is usually between twenty and thirty centimeters long. In the water and on the beaches, it stands out particularly for its bright colors, varying between red, green, gray, yellow and white. But if some people find it rather pretty, they had better be wary of it. Not only is it a worm that feeds on animals and carrion, but it is also surrounded by insects. of a kind of white silk which releases venom. You should therefore definitely not touch it. It's from here that the name comes from  "fire worm". 

This giant worm is spreading on Mediterranean beaches, it is a scourge for vacationers

© Arribas/DYDPPA/Shutters/SIPA (published on 04/06/2024)

If its presence in large numbers near the coasts and swimming areas is worrying, it is because like jellyfish , it releases an extremely irritating venom on contact with the skin. This venom causes skin burns and swelling which can last for several hours. In some cases, the pain is so great that it can cause dizziness and nausea. Like jellyfish present on our beaches, the sting of the fireworm is not fatal for humans but will enter the body. sure to be a significant and lasting nuisance.  

Normally endemic to the warm maritime zones of the Atlantic Ocean, the fireworm has also been present for several years in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Its presence in the south of Italy and on the Sicilian coast was known, but researchers note that the worm is gradually moving northwards and particularly at sea. Tyrrhenian.

This progressive migration could be explained by the rise in water temperature which would also favor the proliferation ;ration of the species, observed the biologists. According to them, the successive heat waves of recent years have also allowed this worm to multiply and move into spaces where he hadn't yet been there. observed. For the moment, it is not the subject of a specific alert in France.

The fireworm is not only a risk for swimmers who come to enjoy the warm, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, it is also a risk It is also for fishermen. The multiplication of the number of individuals in fishing zones, where it comes to feed, is harmful, because it is very often found in nets. In addition to giving more work to fishermen, since they must take certain precautions to extract them, the fireworm kills the fish that provide their income . This is what alarmed him. the Italian fishermen who then contacted OGS biologists who are now dealing with this subject.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116