Archive for Zombie Worms

Zombie Worms

Posted in Education, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by urbannight

Reading an article on a whale skeleton found in Antarctica, it mentioned ‘zombie worms’. The name is great but how does a worm without a mouth eat? I had to look it up.

Its actual name is Osedax and they seem to be a bright pink with feathery feels all around them, kind of like millipede legs.

Now to the question of the feeding, the drill into the bones. But they don’t have any drilling organs. They excrete acid. How is a good question since they appear not to have organs for that either.

Apparently, those feelers are the ‘drills’ that penetrate the bone and those feeler create and excrete an enzyme that dissolves the bone. The worms have some kind of bacteria that then absorbs the fats and other materials in the bones.

This is a very female dominated creature. Only adult females are found on the rare occasions that they find whale bones. The males don’t leave the larval stage and live inside a ‘gelatinous tube covering part of the female’. The only purpose for the male is to fertilize the eggs the female lays. It is interesting that the male actually can fertilize anything since they never make it to the adult stage. The female can house hundreds of these males.

Apparently, once a worm settles into a bone she starts producing eggs continually. (They eat, they reproduce, why am I suddenly thinking about Tribbles) The article that is supposed to explain how they reproduce doesn’t actually say anything else. Since the males live on the female, are the eggs fertilized as they are excreted or the males leave the female to go to the egg deposits and then return. Is it another enzyme excretion?

The worm can swim up to 10 days to find a source of bones to feed on. Found on whale bones, experiments have discovered that the worms will also feed on cow bones and other animals. So they are not as picky as pandas.

This article also shows worms that look very different from the feeding article. There are 5 known varieties so maybe they look a lot different from one another. Anoter article states they are very diverse.

Most of the articles I can find are just direct reprints of the two articles I’ve used here. Google it and you will find the same. I don’t have my books on correct notation forms with me.