Palaeontology

Ancient seas bore bone-fed worms

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
520,
Page:
411
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/520411a
Published online

Bone-eating worms devour dead whales in today's oceans, but their ancient relatives might have emerged millions of years before their modern food source.

Modern Osedax worms drill distinctive holes in bone, with the oldest examples found in whale and fish bones from around 30 million years ago. But Silvia Danise and Nicholas Higgs of Plymouth University, UK, found these boreholes in the fossilized remains of an extinct marine reptile and a turtle, both roughly 100 million years old.

The discovery shifts the evolution of Osedax-type worms to well before the rise of early whales, about 50 million years ago. The ancient worms probably survived on the bones of turtles and other animals before whales appeared.

Biol. Lett. 11, 20150072 (2015)

Additional data