(RNN) – Researchers have collected the first live specimen of a rare, giant shipworm, found in the Philippines. The long, black worm-like animals were found in waters near the Philippines.
The scientists used a tip from a Filipino documentary about fishermen who find, cook and eat the creatures, which are not worms, but mollusks, related to clams.
The animal lives in a long, hard tube, face down in the mud on the bottom of the sea and feeds on gas emitted by stinking mud clotted with rotting vegetation and animals. Bacteria in the giant shipworm’s guts break down hydrogen sulfide into elements that sustain the animal.
Hydrogen sulfide is the same gas that humans expel when they eat a lot of beans – only the stuff the giant shipworm survives on smells worse.
The creature, which grows up to five feet long, was something of a science legend that had only previously been identified by its thick, tubular shell the size of a baseball bat that has been found for years. The shells can bring as much as $200 in Asian markets, Wired reported.
A team of researchers led by Daniel Distel published their findings, along with a hair-raising video and educational graphics in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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