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See Inside Scientific American Volume 307, Issue 3

What Is It?: Bone-Eating Worms




COURTESY OF GREG ROUSE Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Bone-eating worms: Scientists recently discovered how worms with no mouth wiggle their way through whale skeletons. The genus Osedax, seen here on a whale's rib at the bottom of Monterey Canyon off the California coast, releases acid through its roots, according to findings presented at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting earlier this summer. “Understanding how Osedax uses acid to dissolve the bone matrix is the first step in understanding the nutrition of these animals,” says Greg Rouse of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who is one of the researchers. Investigators first found the worms, which were living in and thriving off of whale carcasses, 10 years ago.

COMMENT AT ScientificAmerican.com/sep2012

This article was originally published with the title "What is it?."

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