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Researchers Find New Rock-eating Shipworms In Abatan River

Researchers have found the rare shipworms to be the reason for the trouble caused to humans during the shipping days. The sinking of the ships, eating of the Dutch dikes, undermining piers and other dangers to the humans that were observed in the mid-1700s was possibly due to the shipworms. The current study shows that the researchers have found the first ever shipworm that avoids wood and instead relies on a completely different diet, which is a rock. The latest discovered shipworm is a white, thick, wormlike organism that grows about a meter long and lives in the freshwater. The species named Lithoredo abatanica was primarily spotted by the researchers in 2006 in finger-sized burrows engraved in the limestone banks of the Abatan River, Philippines. However, the researchers could study the organism in detail for now.

The current shipworm is referred to as the rock-eating shipworm that is quite unique compared to its wood-eating companions. The team has found the shell to have squeezed or modified for drilling its head in. The shells of these creatures have spiky invisible teeth for digging into the wood but for the rock eaters, there are dozens of millimeter-sized and thicker teeth present. They have a unique digestive sack that helps them store the wood wherein the bacteria degrade it.

The rock-eating shipworm ingests its scrapes so as to make a protective burrow for itself; however, the creature is found to lack a sack and the digestive bacteria that make the absorption of minerals from the tiny rock pieces difficult. The ingestion of these creatures may be difficult compared to their ancestors who rely on wood. The new species depend on the bacteria present near in the gills to obtain nutrients and food was consumed using its siphon present at the backside of the clam for the sustenance purpose. The Reuben Shipway from the Northeastern’s Ocean Genome Legacy Center had recently found a group of shipworms to have unique properties such that they work as a mill when it comes to eating up wood. The humans in the earlier days had to face a lot of problems in terms of health and infrastructure due to these species.

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