Robert Vrijenhoek and Shannon Johnson (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), and Greg Rouse (Scripps) have recently completed research aimed at classifying 12 new lineages of Osedax worms as their very own species. Upon their 2004 discovery in Monterey Bay, geneticists classified them under the polychaete annelid family Siboglinidae. Since then, approximately 17 distinct lineages have been found, making the “Osedax as full animal kingdom citizens” movement strong.
“Why should I care”, you ask.
Say you were a whale from Monterey Bay and your time had come to go on to the great whale afterlife. You would slowly fall to rest peacefully at the bottom of the bay, far below the many tour boats filled with drunk famous people. More than likely, the bones of your former body would be munched on by the aforementioned Osedax worms. And not so much “munched on” as dissolved and absorbed by these mouth-less, gut-less, and anus-less worms.
If that’s not bizarre enough: they also exhibit bizzarrer sexual habits. The much smaller males gather in groups of 50-100 to live inside some lucky female. The males never mature past the larval stage, yet are able to be fertilizers.
That’s why you should care.
It appears that before these fascinating new Osedax worms are finally treated like the unique species they are, more research will have to be done. Fossils to be examined, evolutionarily ages to be determined, yadda yadda.
Stay strong, Osedax. You’re day will come.
Some great bone eatin’ photos from the Moneteray Bay Aquarium Research Institute below the fold.
The traditional Thanksgiving Whale Bone:
More bone crunching:
A lovely lady worm and her harem of larvae men:
They make the perfect pet.