This 'phlegmy' worm feeds on the bones of the dead (whales)

Illustration for article titled This 'phlegmy' worm feeds on the bones of the dead (whales)

Some creatures are just too weird to not share with the world. Case in point: Osedax mucofloris, which just became my newest all-time favorite sea creature. Why? Osedax mucofloris literally translates to "bone-eating snot-flower," which, let's face it, is probably just about the best scientific name ever.


As its name suggests, O. mucofloris munches on bones to survive. But not just any bones. This gooey little critter survives on the bones of dead whales:

"They look like flowers poking out of the whale bone," researcher Adrian Glover told BBC news, when his paper describing the newly described species was published back in 2005. "The analogy goes a bit further because they have a root system that goes into the bone."

"The part of the animal that is exposed to the seawater is covered in a ball of mucus, so they are quite snotty. That is probably a defence mechanism."

One of the most noteworthy things about O. mucofloris, other than its name, is the fact that it can be found noshing on whales in waters as shallow as 125 meters; prior to its discovery, bone-eating annelids (known colloquially as "zombie worms") had only been found at depths ranging from 1500–3000 m. O. mucofloris became the first in a number of recent discoveries that suggest zombie worms may be more diverse, and more widespread — both in terms of ocean depth, and global distribution — than previously believed.

Read more about bone-eating snot-flowers at BBC News, and in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

[Via Deep Sea News' Kevin Zelnio]

Top image by Chris Allen via EOL



A calcivore! Just as adorable.