Monday, November 2, 2015

It Bites

We bring to you today the skeleton of an unidentified parasitic worm from a private collection. The specimen was originally collected in the Congo during the Du Bois Expedition of 1932-1933. The creature was removed from the intestinal cavity of an unfortunate porter who died during extraction. According to contemporaneous records both the worm and the porter's body underwent extremely rapid putrefaction at the time of death, far beyond anything even the hot, humid climate of the jungle could account for.

The anterior portion of the creature is approximately 2" in diameter and displays quadrilateral symmetry, with four sharpened mandibles projecting from the bony structures of the head. The mouth structure is well preserved and shows signs of an eversible proboscus used in feeding. The body is approximately 26" in length and consists of dozens of papery, cartilaginous segments.

Experts were unable to provide a definitive identification based on the creature's skeleton. It matches no known species, but appears to have a number of structural similarities to the parasitic invertebrates of the genus Pentastoma. Complicating definitive placement in that group is the sheer size of the specimen. Both contemporary and fossil examples of the genus have a maximum length of 6", far shorter than this variety.

Oh, how I love the ickyness of the toothed worms.  For this piece I built on the techniques used for last year's Tillinghast specimen.  The body is a lightning whelk egg case I picked up on Ebay.  The head is a mix of real mouse and mole bones, sculpted Apoxie Sculpt, and some Games Workshop Tyranid bits.

The bones are incredibly delicate, so they had to be reinforced to survive any kind of handling.  I accomplished that by flooding them with super glue and then spraying each one down with accelerator to kick the reaction.   The result is a surprisingly strong structure formed as the liquid cyanoacrylic fills the pores and voids inside the bone.

The biggest hurdle of the project was producing a consistent surface finish.  Getting the multiple materials to match required two coats of ivory, a detail wash of burnt sienna, and a highlight layer of matte white.  The final treatment involved dusting down the whole piece with some powdered ochre pigment and then going over it with a dampened Q-tip.  That removed the powder from the high spots and allowed the resulting "mud" to flow into the low spots.

If you like it, my little friend just happens to be available on Ebay.


Anonymous said...

Very impressive!

CoastConFan said...

You’ve done a super job with the head and the color blending is perfect.

I have to wonder since you used the egg cases of the whelk that the worms might also have a serrated, toothed tongue (radula) such as the whelk that just licks and tears away the living flesh. It’s a highly unpleasant prospect for the prey whether it’s an oyster being eaten alive by a whelk or a deathworm eating the insides of a human victim.

For those of you with a historical bent, the shell of the adult whelk (among others see below) was a source of material to make white wampum for East Coast Native Americans. Beads got traded around quite heavily to other Native Americans inland sometimes traveling great distances.

Mr. Phikset said...

That is awesome. And I thought I recognized the warrior torso fronts...