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Deep Sea Buffet For Bone-devouring Worms

Date:
September 26, 2005
Source:
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Summary:
An unusual relationship between bacteria and a newly discovered group of marine worms is the only known partnership (or symbiosis) which uses sunken marine mammals as its sole source of nutrition. In the September issue of Environmental Microbiology, Dr Shana Goffredi and her colleagues reveal this unique partnership between bacteria and the Osedax (bone-devouring) group of marine worms.

Laboratory photo of one of the newly discovered bone-eating worms, Osedax frankpressi, which has been removed from a whale bone. Normally only the red and white plumes and the pinkish trunk would be visible. The greenish roots and whitish ovary would be hidden inside the bone.
Credit: Image credit: (c) 2003 Greg Rouse / Courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

An unusual relationship between bacteria and a newly discovered groupof marine worms is the only known partnership (or symbiosis) which usessunken marine mammals as its sole source of nutrition.

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In the September issue of Environmental Microbiology, Dr ShanaGoffredi and her colleagues reveal this unique partnership betweenbacteria and the Osedax (bone-devouring) group of marine worms.

Symbiosis, or the living together of different organisms,allows some species to live in otherwise hostile environments, so itcan be a powerful mechanism of evolutionary change. This is especiallytrue in the deep sea. Survival in some deep-sea environments requirescapabilities that animals alone don't possess. So teaming up with amicrobial partner is the secret of survival for many host animalsliving in such environments.

Dr Goffredi says: "Measures of significant population sizes,and the discovery of four additional host species in only three years,suggests that the Osedax worms and their bacterial 'partners' arelikely to play substantial roles in the cycling of nutrients into thesurrounding deep-sea community."

This can be put into context by considering that the Osedaxworms and their symbiotic bacteria can turn-over a large amount oforganic carbon (one whale carcass may weigh up to 50 tons),approximately 2000 years faster than the usual mechanism of carbondeposition to the deep seafloor.

The results of this study will aid understanding of the potential for adaptation between animals and microbes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Deep Sea Buffet For Bone-devouring Worms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050926082721.htm>.
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. (2005, September 26). Deep Sea Buffet For Bone-devouring Worms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050926082721.htm
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Deep Sea Buffet For Bone-devouring Worms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050926082721.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

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