Bone-Eating Zombie Worms!!

(Thanks to the buff and ever-vigilant Jo McB for passing this along to me!)

I tell you, you just can’t make this stuff up.

How about little critters that extract nutrients from deceased whales and fish. Not interesting enough for you?

How about worms that, despite their lack of mouth, gut and anus, secrete acids through their skin to break down bones and ‘feast on’ carcasses.

(Bone-eating zombie worms! [aka Osedax worms])

As written in the Gospel According to Wikipedia, “Osedax is a genus of deep-sea siboglinid polychaetes, commonly called bonewormszombie worms, or bone-eating wormsOsedax is Latin for ‘bone-eating’, the name alluding to how the worms bore into the bones of whale carcasses to reach enclosed lipids, on which they rely for sustenance.

(Osedax worms chowing down on a whale skeleton [1])

Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute using the submarine ROV Tiburon first discovered the genus in Monterey Bay,California, in February 2002. The worms were found living on the bones of a decaying gray whale in the Monterey Canyon, at a depth of 2,893 m (9,491 ft).”

And how do they reproduce, you wonder? I am SO glad you asked!

(Close-up of osedax worms enjoying a bone buffet)

This worm appears to be highly fecund [1] and reproduces continuously. This may help explain why Osedax is such a diverse genus, despite the rarity of whale falls in the ocean.

Male Osedax are microscopic dwarfs that live as “harems” inside the lumen of the gelatinous tube that surrounds each female. An individual female can house hundreds of these males in her tube.

There you have it, boys and girls.

You’re welcome!

aa-tribalfang

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[1] The small pink animals in the foreground are scavenging sea cucumbers.

[2] Fecund: producing or capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc., in abundance; prolific; fruitful: fecund parents; fecund farmland. (People just don’t use the word ‘fecund’ enough in day-to-day conversation)

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