Zombie Worms Crave Bone. Zombie worms, aka Osedax worms, were first discovered living on whale bones on the seafloor in 2002. Since then, scientists have discovered four other species, all of which get their energy from bones.
Zombie worms don’t eat mineral bones directly; instead, they digest fats within the bone. However, their style of “eating” is quite different from ours because they don’t have a mouth or a stomach! They secrete an acid from their skin that dissolves bone, freeing up the fat and protein trapped inside. Then, symbiotic bacteria living in the worms’ bodies digest the fat and protein. How Osedax acquire nutrients from the bacteria isn’t known: they may simply digest the bacteria, or nutrients are somehow transferred to the worm.
Photo: Yoshihiro Fujiwara/JAMSTEC