New species of worm devours alligator in astonishing experiment

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A warning for readers who are not afraid of the depths. ocean: This story could soon change that.

In 2019, a group of researchers that wanted to provoke excitement in the dark corners of the sea performed a unique experiment.

The team, from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), left three dead alligators 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) deep in the Gulf of Mexico to see how deep-dwelling creatures would react to an unusual food source.

At first, scientists thought the reptiles’ tough skin would discourage scavengers by making it difficult for them to reach the soft, more desirable meat.

However, this quickly proved to be far from the case.

In one day, nine large isopods (Bathynomus giganteus) They were observed feasting on the first carcass, eventually penetrating its skin and eating its food from the inside out; Imagine a group of foot-long pink scale insects crawling on an alligator and you’ll get the idea.

Several Bathynomus giganteus were observed gorging on the 30kg carcass.McClain et al.

The second crocodile, launched about 100 kilometers away, was almost completely devoured in just 51 days, leaving nothing but its skull, its spine and the rope and weight used to anchor it to the sea floor.

The scant remains became a source of great excitement for researchers when they noticed that they had been attacked by a new species of bone-eating worm.

They concluded that it appeared to be a member of the Osedax family, commonly known as “zombie worms” because they suck and live on the bones of the dead, which had never been seen before in Mexico.

Tests revealed that its closest identifiable relatives are native to Antarctica and California, making it an “undescribed species.”

The researchers wrote in a paper about their discovery, which was published in the journal FURTHERthat the creature “will be named in due time.”

From top left: the second alligator on the day it was dumped, then its remains 51 days later, which are stained a rusty tone indicating the presence of the Osedax worm. McClain et al.

So what happened to the third alligator?

Well, that part is a mystery, because eight days after his fall at his 1,996-meter-deep observation point, he had disappeared.

Investigators noted that although the body was missing, the 20.4kg anchor, shackle and rope used to restrain the animal were found 8.3 meters away, suggesting it had been “dragged” there. .

The experts concluded that it was most likely that a “large scavenger” had taken possession of the reptile. And given the depth at which it had been left and the “implied body size necessary to consume a moderately sized alligator and move a large weight,” it was probably a large shark.

Clearly, whatever the beast was, it had no desire to share its dinner with a bunch of greedy worms.

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