Friday, 26 October 2012

'Those are my words, MailOnline'

On 22 October, Becky Crew wrote a post on the Running Ponies blog at Scientific American. It was about:

Eunice aphroditois, otherwise known as a bobbit worm.

Crew explained:

It lives on the sea floor at depths of 10 to 40 m, and has five antennae to sense its prey, such as smaller worms and fish, which it catches with a complex feeding apparatus called a pharynx. The pharynx can turn inside-out, like glove fingers, and has strong, sharp mandibles on the end. Sometimes its prey is cut clean in half because of the speed and strength of E. aphroditois’ attacks, and it can inflict a nasty bite if a human gets too close.

On 23 October, MailOnline published an article about:

Eunice aphroditois - also known as the Bobbit worm.

Damien Gayle, whose byline appeared on the MailOnline article, explained:

The creature, which spends its life mostly buried beneath the sand of the sea-floor, sticks just a portion of its body up into the water where it has five antennae to sense its prey, usually smaller worms and fish.

It snares its prey using a complex feeding apparatus called a pharynx which can turn inside-out, like the fingers of a glove, and has sharp mandibles on the end which snap shut like scissors.

Unlucky creatures are sometimes sliced in two because of the speed and strength of the worm's attacks, and it can dish out nasty bites to any humans who stray too close.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 

Becky tweeted:

Neither Becky, nor Running Ponies, nor Scientific American are mentioned in the MailOnline article.

Becky also wrote this:

E. aphroditois is found all over the world where the ocean is warm, and is noted for its unusually large body size and length. Since the 19th century, scientists have recognised it as having one of, if not the, longest bodies among the polychaete worms – a class of highly segmented, mostly marine worms including the Christmas tree and Pompeii worms. Their average length is one metre, and specimens measuring a whopping three metres have been discovered in the waters of the Iberian Peninsula, Australia and Japan.

And MailOnline published this:

Noted for its unusually large body size and length, E. aphroditois is found in warm waters all over the world.

Since the 19th century, marine biologists have recognised it has having one of the longest bodies among polychaetes - a class of segmented, mostly marine worms.

They average a length of about one metre, but specimens measuring as long as three metres have been discovered.

Daniel Keogh (@ProfessorFunk) produced a colour-coded comparison of the articles, which he posted on Twitter:

Becky asked:

Many more examples of plagiarism by MailOnline can be found here.

(Hat-tip to Stephen)


  1. From the same article:

    "That same year, a report in MailOnline Science detailed how a 4ft-long specimen was unearthed in a Newquay, Cornwall aquarium that was attacking coral and prize fish."

    Vicious bastards, aquariums...

  2. 5 days later and they've not changed the story or issued an apology, and not only have they not allowed any commenters to point out the correct source, they've shut down commenting entirely. Shameful.


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