The zombie worm lived 100 million years ago and used to feed on the carcasses of prehistoric marine creatures.
Researchers from the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences in collaboration with the Marine Institute, published a new study in the journal Biology Letters, in which they talked about the evolution of this species of worm.
In their study, the scientists wrote that the Osedax worm managed to exist by feeding on the bones of prehistoric reptiles like plesiosaurs and sea turtles.
Two of the main authors of the study, Dr. Silvia Danise and Dr. Nicholas Higgs, explained that they have discovered evidence of the zombie worm on some fossils of plesiosaur that are held at the University of Cambridge Museum.
Dr. Higgs wrote that this discovery is important for a better understanding the origins of this species of worm.
According to the new study, in the past decades the researchers have discovered hundreds of new marine species that have unique ways to adapt to extreme environments.
These discoveries led to important questions on how these species originated and how they evolved through geological time.
The zombie worm in particular is fascinating mainly because of it confirms the alien nature of many species of deep-sea creatures.
The new study shows that these species of worm that feed on the bones of other animals did not co-evolve with creatures like the whales, but they survived by eating the skeletons of massive marine reptiles that sued to dominate the oceans during the dinosaur age.
According to the scientists, the Osedax worm prevented the skeletons of many creatures from becoming fossilized, which hampers the researchers’ knowledge about these extinct prehistoric marine creatures.
The zombie worm is no larger than a human finger and lives in the oceans at depths of more than 4,000 m.
The Osedax worm belongs to the Siboglinidae family of worms and lacks a mouth and a digestive system as adults.
These worms can devour the bones of other animals by penetrating them using tendrils that absorb the lipids and bone collagen. The worm then converts these into bacteria and uses them for energy.
The zombie worm usually feeds on the bones of whales, which made the researchers believe for a long time that this species of worm co-evolved with the whale approximately 45 million years ago.
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