Sunday, January 31, 2010

Marine biology: Osedax, also known as zombie worms

Osedax worms, also known as zombie worms, are bone-eating worms [1]; the Latin-derived word “Osedax” means “bone devourer.” Crispin Little explains [2]:
Zombie worms, also known as Osedax (Latin for “bone devourer”), grow “roots” in dead whale bones, which they slowly consume. The worms seem to live exclusively at whale falls. […] A least five different species of Osedax have been discovered so far.
One species, Osedax rubiplumus, has been found on an almost decomposed gray whale carcass (lying 2,891 meters deep) in Monterey Bay, California, where they, along with sea cucumbers, are scavenging the remaining whale bones (see page 82 in [2]).

Osedax worms leave borings in dead whale bones. A fossil specimen of such an Osedax-marked bone has yet to be found.

: Osedax < Family: Siboglinidae < Order: Sabellida < Class: Polychaeta < Phylum: Annelida < Kingdom: Animalia

Keywords: marine annelid worms, ecosystems, biodiversity, deep seafloor, scavenger stages, sulfophilic stage

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: Osedax, the bone-eating worms.
[2] Crispin T. S. Little: The Prolific Afterlife of Whales. Scientific American February 2010, 302 (2), pp. 78-84.

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