Scientists Are Pretty Excited About This Rock-Eating Shipworm

Scientists Are Pretty Excited About This Rock-Eating Shipworm

Wednesday July 24, 2019 Written by Kate

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“Go eat rocks” is a saying you might have heard from your schoolyard bully. But lo and behold, there’s an animal out there that actually does eat rocks. A worm-like, tubular mollusc called Lithoredo abatanica, to be precise. And it does more than eat them; it digests them to smithereens and poops them out as sand. Ah, the power and majesty of the natural world. 

This plump little guy is a kind of shipworm, a creature already bemoaned by generations of sailors for its tendency to munch on their ships. Scientists “discovered” the new species burrowing through rocks on Bohol Island in the Philippines, though it was already known to local people. 

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What’s so thrilling about the Lithoredo abatanica, according to researchers from Northeastern University in Boston, is that it’s the first time they have identified a shipworm that only eats rock. They think bacteria in the shipworm’s gut could be powerful enough to extract nutrients from rock, which if true, could have medical benefits for humans, too.

Watch the video below to see the squirmy shipworms in action: