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A new species of bone-eating worm has been discovered by scientists who dropped three alligator corpses to the bottom of the ocean to see how long they would last.
The 'zombie' worm from the osedax genus, which colonises bones and consumes the lipids within, was found feasting on the remains of one of the gator corpses.
Osedax - Gulf - Mexico - Bones - Creature
Osedax has never before been observed in the Gulf of Mexico, nor eating the bones of a creature from the Crocodilia family - of which alligators are a member.
The US scientists dropped the alligator corpses into the sea back in 2019 to study how carbon-hungry creatures on the ocean floor would react.
Carcasses - Depth - Feet - Fate
The three carcasses settled at a depth of about 6,500 feet – and all three of them met a different fate.
The team had expected that the reptiles' tough hides would impede creatures of the deep from getting to the soft tissue underneath – but were left surprised.
Days - Set - Alligator - Remains - Flesh
After 51 days, one set of alligator remains had been stripped of its flesh, leaving a few bony remains and the new osedax species.
Every bit of the soft tissue of the alligator had been removed by scavengers, including small crustaceans called amphipods, which were filmed darting around the corpse.
Gator - Bones - Weeks - Time - Zombie
The gator had had its bones picked clean within a few weeks, by which time the zombie worm had started feasting on the skeleton left behind.
The fuzzy brown carpet-like creatures, captured on video by the researchers, represents a brand new species of the osedax genus that's native to the Gulf of Mexico.
'The - Clade - Species - Belongs - Nudepalps
'The clade to which the new species belongs (nudepalps) is widely distributed from California to Japan to Antarctica and there is presently no obvious biogeographic pattern to its discovery in the Gulf of Mexico,' the researchers say in their study, published in the...
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