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Meet the Bone-Eating ‘Zombie Worms’ That Ravaged Reptile Carcasses

posted: 04/17/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Bone-eating Osedax worms
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Osedax 'zombie worms' feed on a bone.
Plymouth University

Researchers at Plymouth University have uncovered more information about the Osedax 'zombie worm' that feeds on the carcasses of marine animals.

Paleontologists believed that the worms co-evolved with whales over the past 100 million years, but new fossil evidence indicates that they also fed on plesiosaurs, large marine reptiles that grew up to 50 feet long.

In present times, the Osedax worms are found across the globe at depths of 13,000 feet. They utilize root-like tendrils to extract lipids and bone collagen from whale carcasses.

"Our discovery shows that these bone-eating worms did not co-evolve with whales, but that they also devoured the skeletons of large marine reptiles that dominated oceans in the age of the dinosaurs. Osedax, therefore, prevented many skeletons from becoming fossilized, which might hamper our knowledge of these extinct leviathans," said Dr. Nicholas Higgs.

Click here for the full story from Plymouth University

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