BONE-WORM PICTURES: Whale-Eaters Surprise Scientists

BONE-WORM PICTURES: Whale-Eaters Surprise Scientists
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December 2, 2009--A member of a species likely new to science, the Osedax yellow-collared worm feasts on whale bones in 2008. Named for the thin yellow ring that runs around the base of the worm's feathery structures--thought to be used for respiration--the species lives below 3,280 feet (1,000 meters).

The first known Osedax worms, which tend to feed on whale remains, were first scientifically described in 2004. A short five years later, new types of the bone-eating worms are turning up as fast as scientists can study them. (See "New Worms Eat (and Eat and Eat) Only on Dead Whales.")

So far, scientists have confirmed five Osedax species, which live between 82 feet to 9,842 feet (25 to 3,000 meters) deep in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. And in November researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute revealed evidence of 12 more potentially new species, including the yellow-collar, all found in the undersea canyon off Monterey, California.

--Matt Kaplan
—Photograph courtesy Greg Rouse, MBARI
 
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