Staff had been puzzled by violent attacks on their fragile living reefs – in some cases the corals had been literally cut in half.
After staking out the display for several weeks, aquarists decided as a last resort to take it apart rock by rock.
Halfway through the process the terrifying perpetrator was finally revealed - a monstrous four-foot-long giant reef worm.
Staff eventually lured it out with fish scraps – but not before it bit through 20lb fishing line.
Curator Matt Slater said: “As part of our tropical marine displays we have been painstakingly propagating a variety of corals. They are extremely slow-growing and every one we have lost to these attacks was a major blow.
“In the end it got so bad that I decided to literally take the display apart to find out who was responsible. I could hardly believe my eyes when I finally caught sight of the culprit.
“It really does look like something out of a horror movie! It’s over four feet long with these bizarre-looking jaws. Having done some research we also discovered that it is covered with thousands of bristles which are capable of inflicting a sting resulting in permanent numbness'.”
Matt believes it probably arrived as a juvenile in a delivery of living rock from another aquarium.
After being carefully removed the worm – which has been nicknamed ‘Barry’ by staff – has been re-located into its own tank, safely away from the coral.
“Obviously we’re reluctant to feed it on any more of our living coral so we are currently looking at alternatives. Some references suggest it may also feed on seaweed so we’ll try it on that in the short term,” added Matt.
SOURCE (article and image): thisisthewestcountry.co.uk