World Bulletin / News Desk
An enormous black worm that lives in the mud of the sea floor and survives on the remnants of noxious gases digested by bacteria has been unveiled by scientists for the first time.
The slimy giant shipworm can grow up to 155 centimetres (five feet) in length, despite living a sedentary life in ocean sediment and apparently eating nothing more than the waste products of the micro-organisms that live in its gills.
"We are amazed. This is the first time we saw a shipworm as large as this. Usually, shipworms are only as short as a matchstick and are white," Filipino marine biologist Julie Albano told AFP.
The shipworm is a not actually a worm at all, but a bivalve -- like mussels and clams -- and has its own brittle, tusk-like shell.
Also known by its scientific name Kuphus Polythalamia, the mollusc is radically different from its smaller shipworm cousins, which burrow in -- and digest -- wood.
Researchers who analysed the creature found that although it had its own digestive system, this was shrunken and appeared to be largely redundant.
Instead, Kuphus Polythalamia relies on bacteria that live in its gills, which digest hydrogen sulphide -- a gas that smells of rotten eggs -- from the mud and emit traces of carbon.
The process is photosynthesis in plants, where they take carbon dioxide from the air, use the carbon to grow and expel oxygen as a by-product.
"We suspected the giant shipworm was radically different from other wood-eating shipworms. Finding the animal confirmed that," said Margo Haygood, a research professor at the University of Utah who also took part in the study.
"This remarkable species remains to be fully described and explained," the journal said.
Albano said the giant shipworm was found in the coastal town of Kalamansig in southern Sultan Kudarat province and its bacteria are now being studied for possible pharmaceutical use.
While the odd-looking animals are new to international marine scientists, Albano said, local people have clearly known all about them for years.
"The shipworm is edible, tastes like an octopus," she said. "Locals eat it and it serves as an aphrodisiac for them."
Despite all-out efforts to give the Chinese Communist Party blue skies for its twice-a-decade congress, Beijing's notorious smog has cloaked the mega-city in its trademark toxic haze.
Equipment donation to children's oncology institute is first project of state-run aid agency TIKA in Brazil
Some 450 other suspected cases seen in island nation; president says health workers are able to contain epidemic
UN says 900,000 doses of oral vaccine are to be given to Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar
3 cholera quarantine centers have been formed where victims are being treated
12 cases confirmed, 32 persons quarantined to halt spread of disease, says disease control body
Provided by UNICEF, vaccinations will be administered by public health officials in Syria’s Idlib province
Eggs tainted by the insecticide mostly originate from farms in those two countries but have since been found in 45 nations worldwide, the European health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitisa said last week.
The UN says cholera is a major public health problem in the country with millions of cases registered every year. Last year, the disease claimed 817 lives there, according to the WHO.
The ministerial meeting will include representatives from some 30 countries, according to Canada's minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna.
Cholera is endemic in Nigeria, with a rise in cases during rainy season from April to September, says disease control center
Police officers tested positive for cholera after eating infected food; health minister blames food workers
"Up to September 1, 14 deaths have been reported," the health ministry said in a statement, adding that "the total number of suspected cholera cases stands at 186."
Pharmaceutical company says treatment has more than 80 percent success rate for form of leukemia
Federal agency orders StemImmune to stop injecting vaccine into tumors of cancer patients
565,041 suspected cases of cholera have been recorded in the country since April 27