Scientists finally capture weird creature that lives in a 'tusk' hundreds of years

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2017-04-18 13:53:10 Category: Entertainment מאת:
The horrifying five-foot long shipworm revealed: Scientists finally capture weird creature that lives in a 'tusk' hundreds of years after it was first described Researchers have discovered a new, giant species species of shipworm that measures up to five feet long. The giant, slimy animal was discovered after it was tapped out of a tusk-like shell. The giant shipworm lives in shallow mud bays in the Philippines and relies on bacteria in its gills to make its food The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that the animal gets its energy from a form of sulfur in mud. While the existence of the creature's shells has been documented since the 18th century, researchers have never had access to the animal living inside. The animal's habitat was unknown until one of the research collaborators shared a documentary that aired on television in the Philippines showing the worms planted in the mud of a shallow lagoon. Based on this, the researchers went on an expedition and found live specimens of the giant shipworm, whose scientific name is Kuphus polythalamia. When the researchers finally obtained a live Kuphus worm in its case, they watched Dr Daniel Distel, a professor at Northeastern University and the leader of the research, open the case and tap the worm out of it. 'I was awestruck when I first saw the sheer immensity of this bizarre animal,' said Marvin Altamia, a researcher at the marine sciences institute, University of the Philippines. 'Being present for the first encounter of an animal like this is the closest I will ever get to being a 19th century naturalist,' says the study's senior author Dr Margo Haygood, a research professor in medicinal chemistry at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy. Because the animal had never been studied, little was known about its life history, habitat, or biology. 'We suspected the giant shipworm was radically different from other wood-eating shipworms,' said Dr Haygood. 'Finding the animal confirmed that,' Mr Altamia continued. 'Frankly, I was nervous. 'If we made a mistake, we could lose the opportunity to discover the secrets of this very rare specimen.' The scientists then had to figure out why Kuphus is so unusual. The giant shipworms were found in a lagoon with rotting wood. While normal shipworms burrow into the wood of trees washed into the ocean - eating the wood with the help of bacteria - Kuphus lives in mud and also uses bacteria to feed, but on mud instead of wood. The mud in Kuphus' habitat emits hydrogen sulfide, a gas which smells of rotten egg. The bacteria that live in its gills use the hydrogen sulfide as energy to produce organic carbon that feeds it - in a process similar to how green plants use the sun's energy to convert carbon in the air for food. Because Kuphus worms don't need to digest food, their internal digestive organs have shrunk from lack of use. A hypothesis on the origins of the giant shipworm, proposed by Dr Distel, suggests that the wood-eating shipworms eventually transitioned into sulfur dependent ones by acquiring a different type of beneficial bacteria. The researchers will continue to examine the role wood plays in the unique transition between the normal shipworm and the giant shipworm. 'We are also interested to see if similar transitions can be found for other animals that live in unique habitats around the world,' said Dr Distel. The research was conducted by an interdisciplinary team of researchers based at the University of Utah, Northeastern University, University of the Philippines, Sultan Kudarat State University and Drexel University. Subscribe! Breaking News: