|Image: Adrian Glover, Natural History Museum
These are the bone-eating worms found at the bottom of the world's oceans. They colonise the skeletons of whales that have died and sunk to the depths.
In the strange ecosystem of the deep, these worms act like fungus, breaking down tough material that most other creatures can't.
In this case, they drill into whale bone to get to the fatty goodness whales use for buoyancy. They have no guts or mouth, instead they have a kind of root system and a great bundle of symbiotic bacteria that do all the digestive work for them.
Another thing they don't have is any means of physically drilling into bone. Something of a problem, no?
|Image: Thomas Dahlgren, University of Gothenburg|
It's ACID! Even worms use this time-honoured method of dead body disposal!
Their peculiar root system is full of acid secreting enzymes that let them bore into bone without having to use a tiny hammer and chisel. Microscopic sticky-out bits increase the surface area of the roots, ensuring lots and lots of acid can get in there and do its grim work.
So strange! The more I hear of it the more I get the sense that it's the bacteria who are the real brains of the operation. The actual Boneworm sounds more and more like one of those fancy eco-homes.