Studio Ghibli captures everyone’s hearts with its creations, even scientists.
My Neighbor Totoro is a masterful piece of animation that features two little girls, their mysterious and furry friend, and a bus that also happens to be a cat. That catbus made enough of an impression on scientist Ivo de Sena Oliveira and his team that last year they dubbed a new species of velvet worm after it and the film — Eoperipatus totoros.
At first look, the name fits pretty well. Velvet worms aren’t really anything you’ve seen before. As entomologist Gwen Pearson notes in WIRED, these squishy creatures are “not worms, not insects, millipedes, centipedes, or slugs,” they wiggle around their own branch on the tree of life called Onychophora. Velvet worms don’t have exoskeletons like insects either– instead they use fluid pressure inside their bodies to propel their adorably stumpy legs forward and to stay inflated. To date, we’ve only seen three Eoperipatus totoros worms.
But we know that velvet worms are voracious, Spider-Man-style hunters.
Velvet worms are absurd. They have two Blastoise-style goo cannons that launch immobilizing gunk at prey from serious distance. Once prey is trapped underneath the stuff, the worm catbuses over to it and uses sets of mouth blades to puncture exoskeletons and inject digestive enzymes. Then it slurps up the goo left over. Yummy.
I’d rather ride the catbus.
Kyle Hill is the Science Editor of Nerdist Industries. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.