A new study is the first to describe a new species, Kuphus polythalamia, which was dubbed the giant shipworm. The organism lives in a long tube shell that it attaches to the bottom of muddy lagoons. There, it feeds on noxious hydrogen sulfide gas that’s produced in the mud. The research results were recently published in the Proceedings at the National Academy of Sciences journal.
Researchers Found Live Giant Shipworm That Feeds On Sulfur?
Shipworms typically line their tunnel with a thin shell as they dig deeper into the wood. This new species has developed a much sturdier tube shell as it burrows into mud. Not needing to actually eat this latter, it’s mouth is capped off by the shell, whereas the ordinary shipworm continuously digs into the tree that it’s feeding on.
Discoveries like this serve as evidence to scientists of life’s inventiveness and complexity. The symbiotic relationships between bacteria and animals make life in otherwise uninhabitable environments possible. As cases like this one are uncovered on Earth, scientists can imagine what may be possible on other planets that appear to be too toxic for life to exist.