It wriggles. It squirms. It moves like some sort of multi-tentacled horror from the black lagoon. It’s … a blob of blackworms. And just in time for Halloween!

California blackworms (Lumbriculus variegatus) are a species of unassuming aquatic worm that typically grow no more than about 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) long. But when threatened by environmental stressors — such as drought — these worms braid themselves together into masses to preserve moisture and protect one another. That’s creepy enough, but these masses can also move in a form of what researchers call “emergent locomotion.” No one’s in charge, but the worm blobs can still steer themselves to more comfortable environments simply by dint of each worm’s interactions with their nearest neighbors.



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