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.
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Osedax is a genus comprised of a number of species. Some of the species have only recently been recognized and named. Your heading was not written by a person knowledgable of taxonomy. Bad taxonomy is the root of all evil (well, maybe just lots of evil).
OK, I'm on board. One of the things I have thought about, as have others who actually study whales, is the distribution of whale carcases over time. Before industrial whale slaughter, there was some rate of death in fairly large whale populations. With whaling there was a very large increase in number of whale carcases. Some had been flensed, but I understand about a third of the whales killed were not recovered. Today there are much smaller whale populations and thus much fewer whale carcases. One wonders what effect this history has had on the evolution of whale carcas feeders.
A single whale fall, as I'm sure you know, can provide so much sustenance that entire localized ecosystems can develop. These communities can live off of said fallen whale for decades, all the while diversifying and establishing new ecological lineages. Just ask our Osedax friends.
So, are you wondering whether or not, given the spike and subsequent drop in whale falls, carcass feeding organisms will be able to continue evolving at the same rate and with the same diversification?
If not, ohhhh do tell!
Luckily, I have too much to do to think about this too hard. It might make my head hurt.
Just what I need. Another tax on me debate... wait a minute, wrong blog! Sorry....
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I live in the sea so that all seven foklerÄ± sea creatures are innocent and insanoglunda afraid that living things from us, small as well bilirÄ±m son of man does not live up to them, their language cruel yuzune more space, but the approach can not live as a result turns deÄilmiii , yes