Rock-eating worm that excretes sand discovered

This post was originally published on this site
Advertisements

Scientists have discovered a new subspecies of worm that eats stone and excretes it as sand.

As part of a diet that sounds like a guaranteed route to rock-hard abs, the insect has been found at the bottom of a river in the Philippines helping itself to portions of carbonate limestone.

They burrow holes in the rock and keep fragments of it in their gut – possibly to help them grind up prey like plankton, or maybe to extract nutrients in a way not yet understood.

Reporting on the unusual find in the journal Proceedings Of The Royal Society, researchers have identified the mollusc as a type of shipworm, which are better known for eating wood.

They have been the bane of sailors for generations and can also cause damage to coastal structures such as piers, using their shells as a drilling tool to burrow into wood and then a symbiotic bacteria in their gills to eat it.

Specimens of the rock-consuming variant were collected from the Abatan River in eastern Bohol, and they ranged in body length from 5.5mm to 105.4mm.

Rather than their shells featuring the sharp ridges used by their cousins to get through wood, the translucent creatures are instead covered in thicker and blunter tooth-like deviations.

More from World

Their gills also extend the entire length of their body and they have an elongated intestine compared to the traditional shipworm, which the report said made it a completely unique specimen.

Reuben Shipway and Daniel Distel of Northeastern University analysed the worms after taking a trip to the scene of their discovery in 2016, with a local having suggested they check the bottom of the river after they spotted large chunks of sandstone covered in holes.

The journal report – the first time a detailed study on the worms has been published – concluded that they could even play a key role in the creation of new ecosystems for other freshwater-dwellers.

Advertisements

Login, Join the discussion, Post a comment, Earn points and win prizes!!

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Share via