A new study published in the science journal PLOS ONE shows that scientists have discovered a new species of bone-eating worm in the Gulf of Mexico. The study published in December 2019 studied alligator carcasses that were dropped in the Gulf of Mexico to probe the deep ocean's ecosystem. The study was aimed at understanding how organisms living on the ocean floor survive without sunlight. According to the study, worms ate the soft tissues of alligators within 51 days.
Researchers used three alligator carcasses for the study and they were dropped at three separate sites on February 14, February 20 and April 15 respectively last year. The first observation of the alligator fall occurred on February 15, 2019, at 12:05. Nine Bathynomus giganteus were scavenging on the food fall. Thirteen total Bathynomous giganteus were observed feeding on the alligator fall during the third observation that took place on February 16.
According to the study, "The scavengers began consuming the food fall 43 hours post-deployment for one individual (198.2cm, 29.7kg), and the carcass of another individual (175.3 cm, 19.5kg) was completely devoid of soft tissue at 51 days post-deployment. A third individual (172.7cm, 18.5kg) was missing completely after 8 days, with only the deployment harness and weight remaining drug 8 meters away, suggesting a large elasmobranch scavenger. Additionally, bones recovered post-deployment reveal the first observations of the bone-eating Osedax in the Gulf of Mexico and are confirmed here as new to science."
"These results support other studies that have found that bones of organisms beyond whales can support Osedax. This is the first published report of Osedax exploiting the bones of Crocodilia, though three species (O. knutei, O. ryderi, and O. talkovici) have been recovered from green turtle bones deployed off California," the study confirmed. According to the research, the new species discovered did not eat cow bones deployed at a similar depth in the Gulf of Mexico before.
(with inputs from agencies)