10 Reasons Why Bone Eating Worms Are F’n Awesome

85_carcass_bigThe deep-sea Osedax bone-devouring worms could easily have been the poster child for Deep-Sea News instead of the Giant Squid.

tumblr_lvhzvsjyi91qjyasqo1_500Below is list of 10 reasons why Osedax are the shiznit.

  1. The chicas are freaky. All whalebone-eating, female worms have dwarf males, up to 114 in Osedax rubiplumus, fruiting around inside of their body. The whole thing is akin to an internal sperm fest with the female enthralled in her detestable orgy, covered in the love ooze of her harem. And the larger, older ladies have larger harems. Everyone loves a cougar.
  2. Dwarf males ejaculate from the tops of their heads….don’t know what else to say about this but there you have it.
  3. Any bone will do.  No the other bones, real ones. Osedax will inhabit just about any bone, including steak bones thrown overboard as waste.
  4. It’s not Osedax but Osedaxes, or Osedaxi, or whatever the hell it is.  The point is that there are half a dozen to a dozen species.  Imagine learning there are zombie humans, zombie dogs, zombie cats, zombie cows, zombie houseflies, zombie rats, and so on except instead of feeding on brains they prefer your bones.  Only time will tell if Osedax crawl out of the ocean and consume us all.
  5. Osedax is Latin for “bone devourer”.  Not quite accurate as they don’t feed on the actual carbonated hydroxyapatite, i.e. bone mineral, but rather the fats within the bone matrix. What’s not to love about these wee beasties that live off the lipids stored in bones of long-dead whales lying on the seafloor?
  6. Osedax are worms with roots.  The females extend roots into the bones to tap into these lipid reserves. Just like BP drilling for oil in Gulf of Mexico except without the spills.
  7. O. frankpressi - whale-fall wormsOsedax are little snot flowers.  With roots to delve into the bone, a trunk full of males, and a crown of reparatory organs extending from the trunk, these little soft sacks resemble snotty little flowers.  Perhaps that’s why the first named species got the Latin name of Osedax mucofloris, literally bone devouring mucus flower.
  8. Acid…yep I said acid.  Females secrete a bone melting acid from their roots to help dissolve old whalebones or your face, which ever is closer.  As if Osedax could get any more bad ass, I’m now thinking of the Alien queen.
  9. Osedax have no mouth, anus, or gut. The just absorb dead whale parts their roots…by using acid.
  10. Thousands of bone-eating females will infest a whale carcass.  So many will accumulate the whale bones will appear to be covered in circa 1970’s red shag rug. A rug that eats bones, has harems, and secretes acids but otherwise a normal shag rug.



Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (http://www.scienceofthesouth.com/), connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

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6 comments on “10 Reasons Why Bone Eating Worms Are F’n Awesome
  1. Dr. M, in number 7, do you mean respiratory instead of reparatory?

    I’m wondering about something else too. Do the males ever leave the female’s body, and how do they get in there in the first place?

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