Scientists unearth sulphur-powered giant shipworm in Philippines

Dhaka,  Fri,  28 July 2017
Published : 20 Apr 2017, 18:24:48
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Scientists unearth sulphur-powered giant shipworm in Philippines

MANILA: An enormous black worm that lives in the mud of the sea floor and survives on the remnants of noxious gases digested by bacteria has been unveiled by scientists for the first time, according to a recent global media report.

The slimy giant shipworm can grow up to 155 centimetres in length, despite living a sedentary life in ocean sediment and apparently eating nothing more than the waste products of the microorganisms that live in its gills.

The discovery of the giant shipworm, a species never before studied, marked the first time scientists had live specimens in hand, according to an article published this week in American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The shipworm is a not actually a worm at all, but a bivalve — like mussels and clams — and has its own brittle, tusklike shell.

Also known by its scientific name, Kuphus polythalamia, the mollusc is radically different from its smaller shipworm cousins, which burrow in — and digest — wood.

Researchers who analysed the creature found that although it had its own digestive system, this was shrunken and appeared to be largely redundant.

Instead, Kuphus polythalamia relies on bacteria that live in its gills, which digest hydrogen sulphide — a gas that smells of rotten eggs — from the mud and emit traces of carbon.

The process is photosynthesis in plants, where they take carbon dioxide from the air, use the carbon to grow and expel oxygen as a by-product.

 
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