Nature & Environment
Scientists discover shipworm that eats rock
By T.K. Randall
June 21, 2019 · 7 comments
Can shipworms really eat rock ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 James St. John
Given that shipworms are typically known to chew through wood, the find came as something of a surprise.
During the days of wooden sailing ships, these water-dwelling bivalve mollusks were the bane of shipbuilders and sailors alike due to their tendency to bore holes through vessels' hulls.
In one famous case, they ruined Christopher Columbus' 4th trip to the Caribbean in the 1500s and even today, shipworms are still known to damage wooden piers and other similar structures.
Now though, it turns out that at least one type of shipworm has an apetite - not for wood - but for rock.
Armed with large, flat teeth, these remarkable creatures were discovered inside chunks of limestone and were observed not only eating through the rock, but excreting waste sand afterwards.
Exactly how the molluscs gain nutrition from the limestone however remains unclear.
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