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A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Monday, July 9, 2012
Acid Secreting Worms Drill Bones on Sea Bottom
This is yet one more twist on how mother nature has figured out how
to recycle everything imaginable. Were we often err is when we fail
to make sure that mother nature has a chance. One great example of
that is when we think it is clever to dump municipal waste onto an
arid desert. I doubt if our descendents will welcome mummified
garbage for very long.
Here we discover that specialized worms exist able to chew apart
bones in the deep.
I do not know if this protocol has other applications but it is
drill through bones at the bottom of the sea
by Staff Writers
Maywood NJ (SPX)
Jul 04, 2012
worms," known to both eat and inhabit dead whale skeletons and
other bones on the sea floor, have a unique ability to release
bone-melting acid. Credit: Greg Rouse.
worms', known to both eat and inhabit dead whale skeletons and other
bones on the sea floor, have a unique ability to release
bone-melting acid, scientists at Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, University of California, San Diego have recently
discovered. The work is being presented at the Society for
Experimental Biology's 2012 meeting in Salzburg, Austria.
Dr Sigrid Katz, a
postdoctoral researcher working with Greg Rouse and Martin
Tresguerres, said: "These worms are unique in using bone as a
habitat and nutrient source. We have learned a lot about these worms
in the past 10 years, but one of the most intriguing questions has
been how they penetrate bone and take up nutrients."
The worms, whose
official genus name is Osedax, are up to 3-4 cm long and were
discovered on a whale carcass in 2002. They come from a family of
worms living in unexpected locations, with their relatives inhabiting
the extremely hot and acidic hydrothermal vents in the sea.
Like all worms in
their family, Osedax have no mouth, anus, or gut. Their digestion of
the nutritious bone is made possible by their partnership with
While it had been
clear that the worms and their bacteria rely on nutrients such as
collagen or fat from the bones they inhabit, until now it was a
mystery how the worms penetrated the bones and access their
Their bodies consist
of a worm-like portion and 'roots' that house the bacteria and
penetrate the bones, but they have no body parts mechanically able to
drill through bone.
The researchers looked
instead for signs of a chemical drilling strategy, testing for the
presence of acid-secreting enzymes in different tissues of the worm.
One of the enzymes, a proton pump, was abundant in the roots, the
part of the worm that penetrates the bone.
The results indicate
that the worm secretes acid to demineralize the bones.
As Katz explained,
"The discovery of Osedax shows that nutrition is even more
diverse than we imagined, and our results are a step further in
understanding the special relationship between the worm and its
The findings of
this study pertain to the females only. The males never grow beyond
their larval size (about 1 mm) and they live inside the gelatinous
tube that surrounds each female. Each female will have hundreds of
males living in her tube.