It’s hard to imagine that, after thousands of years of cataloguing every living thing we come across, humans are still discovering new animals, but when it comes to the ocean there’s just so much space to cover that it’s easy to miss things. Researchers led by Northeastern University professor Dan Distel just made history by unearthing the first living example of a creature that scientists have had a hard time finding for hundreds of years. It’s called a Giant Shipworm, and it’s absolutely bizarre.
The “worms,” which are actually part of the mollusk family, live inside thick, calcified tubes buried under the sea floor, allowing just two small tips of its body to be seen. The creature feeds almost exclusively on hydrogen sulfide, which is processed by bacteria inside its gills and converted to carbon that the worm then utilizes.
The most striking aspect of the discovery is just how odd the shipworms actually look. Measuring an average of three feet long, the mollusks look like long slippery black rubber tubes with little to no defining features or recognizable body parts. The rigid shells in which they live are said to be as heavy as a tree branch.
Researchers have known that these worms exist for some time thanks to their durable tubes that remain long after the worms die, but have never actually found a living specimen until now. Scientists now set about learning how the species reproduces, their life cycles, and other crucial information needed to paint an accurate picture of the creatures.