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Invasive and poisonous: Fireworm becomes a problem in the Mediterranean

Invasive and poisonous: Fireworm becomes a problem in the Mediterranean
The fireworm looks like a colorful millipede.

They are voracious and carnivorous, they have no enemies, can regenerate themselves and have dangerous spines: the fireworms are multiplying in the Mediterranean thanks to the warm sea temperatures and threaten to become a terror for bathers this summer. Experts in Italy are now researching why these animals are multiplying so rapidly.

Invasive species

The summer heatwaves of the past three years are said to have led to the fireworms (Hermodice carunculata) spreading enormously in the seas of the southern Italian regions of Sicily, Apulia and Calabria. They have thus become an invasive species that threatens the animals living in the marine protected areas, including the corals, and the work of fishermen. The marine animal, which can grow up to 30 centimetres in size, is found in the Mediterranean mainly on hard bottoms and in seagrass meadows. The fireworm can also be found on sand.

Neurotoxic secretion

The white bristles serve as a defense mechanism and contain a neurotoxic secretion. If you touch the fireworm, which resembles a colorful millipede, the bristles penetrate the skin. And because they break off very quickly, they are very difficult to pull out again. The result is burning pain, reddening of the skin and swelling. Some people even react with dizziness and nausea.

“We have managed to isolate an irritant substance, but we are still far from thinking about possible cures for bites,” stressed Roberto Simonini, physicist at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, according to media reports.

Fishermen who come into contact with the bristles of fireworms complain of wounds that often have to be treated with cortisone. Those who do not have cortisone ointment on hand can disinfect the affected area with either alcohol or vinegar, the researchers explained.

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Source: Nachrichten

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