Apr 19, 2017 12:05 PM EDT
First Time Ever: Scientists Found Rare Giant Shipworm Alive In The Philippines [Video]
Once again, the Philippines exposed one of the rarest secrets of the planet. The giant shipworm is no longer a myth. While its existence has been known for decades, no living specimen has been found for further studies. For one, the creature spends most of its life inside a hard shell, wherein its head is submerged down in the mud. Currently, it is believed that the giant shipworm feeds on the mud itself.
Reaching up to 1.55 meters (five feet) in length and six centimeters (2.3 inches) in diameter, it is one of the biggest, and weirdest, "worms" on Earth. The details were published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science".
According to BBC, the shipworm is actually a bivalve. To better illustrate, it belongs to the same group as clams and mussels. Thus, scientifically speaking, it is the longest thriving bivalve known to man, so far. Otherwise known as Kuphus polythamia, the team of experts was surprised by its jet-black color and its extremely "beefy" muscle structure.
Dr. Daniel Distel, the lead author of the study, said that they have tracked down the location of the animal after an unidentified student has seen people sucking the shipworm like spaghetti on YouTube. Per the New York Times, local researchers and fishermen helped search for the creature at the bottom of a remote lagoon in the Philippines. For security purposes, the exact coordinates were not disclosed.
For the record, the "worms" posted on YouTube are called "tamilok". They are usually eaten raw with nothing but vinegar. Tamilok often thrive on a diet of wood. The researchers later identified more descriptions for the creature like its "small digestive system and gills" speckled with yellow, probably from sulfur. This finding led to the assumption that the giant shipworm managed to live off hydrogen sulfide, rather than the woody diet of other shipworms.
Distel noted that further studies on how this animal lives with bacteria inside its cells and not get sick, or die, could help humans understand infections. He assured that "more mysteries" will be unraveled in the coming months. Besides, unexpected discoveries happen whenever something weird emerges from the depths.
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