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The Osedax worm  (Source: University of Leeds)
Researchers believe the Osedax genus may be responsible for dissolving bone before they became fossils, which may have affected the fossil record

Researchers from the University of Leeds have discovered a type of zombie-like worm in the Mediterranean, which may be a clue as to how this bone-eating worm affects fossil records.

The zombie worm, which is of the Osedax genus, does not have a mouth or gut, but consumes bone by growing root-like tissues. These tissues dissolve the bone as they grow. The Osedax were first discovered alive in Monterey Bay, California in 2002, where they were feeding on the bones of a gray whale. Ever since, researchers have wondered how these creatures may have affected fossil records.

But this is no easy task. Learning when and where the Osedax evolved has been a challenge because they are soft-bodied and do not preserve as fossils. Yet understanding the Osedax could provide more insight into lost parts of the fossil record due to these worms eating the bones before they could become fossils.

The Osedax may not leave fossils behind, but they do leave their bulb-shaped cavities that they form in a bone. This has allowed Nicholas Higgs, study leader and University of Leeds researcher, to trace their beginnings. Last year, Higgs traveled to the Mediterranean and used micro-CT scanning technology to find traces of the Osedax.

Now, the bulb-shaped cavities have been found in a 3-million-year-old fossil whale bone from Tuscany, Italy. This is the first time the Osedax have been found in this region, and leads researchers to believe that the Osedax were widespread throughout the world's oceans millions of years ago.

According to Higgs, the Mediterranean dried up nearly six million years ago, and about half a million years later, it re-flooded from the Atlantic.

"So finding out that Osedax were feeding on this whale bone three million years ago tell us that their ancestors must have also been living in the Atlantic as well, because the Mediterranean was re-colonized 5.5 million years ago from the Atlantic. There are 20 different species in Monterey, California alone, so it's almost certain there are many more out there. If Osedax were living in the Mediterranean three million years ago, there's no reason why they aren't living there now."

This study was published in Historical Biology.

Sources: University of Leeds, Science Daily

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Zombie Worm?
By lightfoot on 11/3/2011 12:32:35 PM , Rating: 5
What exactly makes this a "Zombie" worm?

Do they die and then come back to life?

RE: Zombie Worm?
By batjohn on 11/3/2011 12:35:02 PM , Rating: 3
I thought zombies ate brains not bones?

RE: Zombie Worm?
By KungFu_Toe on 11/3/2011 12:47:15 PM , Rating: 4
Booooonnnnnes... Yeah, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

RE: Zombie Worm?
By Natch on 11/4/2011 11:37:41 AM , Rating: 2
To paraphrase Steve Jobs, you're spelling it wrong.

It should be bonezzzzzzzzzzz!! There....isn't that better?

RE: Zombie Worm?
By kleinma on 11/4/2011 2:03:27 PM , Rating: 2
If Steve was spelling it, it would be


RE: Zombie Worm?
By messyunkempt on 11/5/2011 10:15:43 AM , Rating: 2
If Steve was spelling it, there'd be a much more interesting zombie article than this one...

RE: Zombie Worm?
By ppardee on 11/3/2011 1:29:12 PM , Rating: 3
Well, that's just one of the names of it... it's also called a bone-eating snot flower. No clue where the zombie came from...

RE: Zombie Worm?
By The Raven on 11/3/2011 2:42:38 PM , Rating: 4
No, but they get lots of page hits around Halloween just like 'real' zombies. ;-P

RE: Zombie Worm?
By anactoraaron on 11/3/2011 4:05:23 PM , Rating: 3
Gordon Freeman found them. He then promptly took a shotgun to them just to be sure.

What makes this a zombie worm?
By 91TTZ on 11/3/2011 5:25:58 PM , Rating: 5
It just sounds like a worm to me, and that the author threw in the word "zombie" just to get hits on the article.

Pitiful journalism.

RE: What makes this a zombie worm?
By Camikazi on 11/3/2011 9:36:45 PM , Rating: 2
Well they are actually called Zombie Worms, dunno why but that is one of their common names.

By BrgMx5 on 11/3/2011 12:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
Billy-Bob!!! GET THE SHOTGUN, We're sleeping in the porch today!!!

The internetz says them zombies are cuming

RE: What???
By drycrust3 on 11/3/11, Rating: -1
RE: What???
By Nfarce on 11/3/2011 10:48:42 PM , Rating: 1
First of all, that's a REALLY old episode. You must not be a real Top Gear fan if this is your first time watching that one called US Special . That episode was one of my favorites of all time on the series. Especially driving through Alabama with a "Hillary For President" spray paint sign on the side of one of the cars.

Second, the majority of those houses seen were waiting to be cleared of debris at the time of filming. Debris like hazardous chemicals and construction materials, appliances and nasty things like cleaning rotten rat and cockroach infested cupboards and pantries in the kitchen, and furniture and personal belongings. Finally, they had to be completely gutted because the houses are to be demolished. That's in the worse area known as the 9th Ward. Other areas the homes can be gutted and rebuilt with the existing frames. All of that takes time because there are many layers of government to go through.

Third, a lot of the homeowners unwisely didn't have homeowner's insurance, so they lost everything (you wouldn't drive around in a car with no insurance now, would you?). Top that off with the fact that a lot of those homes were rented out to tenants who didn't own them in the first place, and you have a ghost town.

Fourth, those that did have insurance were still waiting on their money to come in. That episode first aired back in early 2007, meaning it was filmed some time in 2006. And the way they complained about the heat in the South, it was obviously summer of 2006 - a year after Katrina. Now maybe you aren't up to speed on how long it takes a location hit by a hurricane to rebound (or in this case a massive flood), but things aren't just rebuilt overnight. I know first hand. I've been through the aftermath of two of them in Florida (after first getting the hell out of their way). BIG ones.

My suggestion to you would be to educate yourself more next time before opening your mouth on what is clearly a subject you know nothing about...or in this case, two subjects.

RE: What???
By thurston2 on 11/6/2011 5:37:23 PM , Rating: 2
you wouldn't drive around in a car with no insurance now, would you?

If I couldn't afford it I would.

RE: What???
By chiadog on 11/4/2011 5:34:16 PM , Rating: 2
zombies are cuming
Quite a disturbing thought.

Net energy of this process?
By bupkus on 11/3/2011 2:28:51 PM , Rating: 2
Just wondering how an organism can gain food or energy from dissolving bone.

If this process yields energy then its construction costs energy. If this were true then it would make some sense but if not then how could this creature sustain its processing of bone or for that matter why. Is there some symbiotic component we don't see?

RE: Net energy of this process?
By Camikazi on 11/3/2011 9:38:10 PM , Rating: 2
A wizard did it *sage nod*

(meaning I got no clue how this thing works :P)

RE: Net energy of this process?
By Fritzr on 11/3/2011 11:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
That is why it is an animal even though it uses roots to digest it's food

Lions & Tigers & Bears (Oh My!) gain food & energy in the same manner. They place food in contact with their nutrient removal apparatus (aka the gut) and extract the nutrients from their food.

Bone is not stone, it is cellular material with a high mineral content. There is nutritional value in the non-mineral portions of the bone cells.

By blueaurora on 11/3/2011 12:49:58 PM , Rating: 3
It does not have nor need digestive organs. It is like an animal plant hybrid not a zombie. Interesting but digging for hits with the in Zombie term isn't becoming :(

RE: Zombie?
By geekman1024 on 11/3/2011 10:34:21 PM , Rating: 2
Plant... You are a genius!

Tiff was playing too much Zombies vs Plants!

By Argon18 on 11/3/2011 11:31:36 PM , Rating: 3
A worm that *doesnt* affect Microsoft Windows!! Now THAT is news!

RE: finally
By hankpanky on 11/4/2011 11:31:03 AM , Rating: 2
It does indeed, it affects an off-shoot OS called Mircrosoft Whalebones

My first thought
By Dorkyman on 11/4/2011 12:03:40 PM , Rating: 3
...was that "Zombie Worms" would be a great name for a rock band.

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