A new study has found that zombie worms have been around for approximately 100 million years, and may have had a tremendous impact on what types of fossils remain today.
The study, which was conducted by the researchers from the Plymouth University, and published in the journal Biology Letters, has found that Osedax, which are commonly called as zombie worms, originated no less than hundred million years back. They also found that these zombie worms have managed to eat the skeletons of ancient reptiles.
Dr Nicholas Higgs, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Plymouth University’s Marine Institute, and the lead author of the study, said, “Our discovery shows that these bone-eating worms did not co-evolve with whales, but that they also devoured the skeletons of large marine reptiles that dominated oceans in the age of the dinosaurs. The revelation was essential for both comprehension of the genesis of the species and its insinuations for fossil remains.”
For their study, the researchers used CT scans to compare the shape of different holes created by the worms. They found evidence that Osedax species were responsible for creative cavities in a plesiosaur corpse. They created 3D scans of two bore holes left in the creature’s flipper bone, as well as four from the sea turtle skeleton, and found that they closely match those found in modern whales.
The researchers added that their discovery shows that the Osedax did not coexist with the whales but they had been eating bones of huge sea reptiles that have ruled the oceans in prehistoric times. The researchers added that Osedax prohibited many skeletal systems from being fossilized which could be a problem in researching these wiped out leviathans.
“The increasing evidence for Osedax throughout the oceans past and present, combined with their propensity to rapidly consume a wide range of vertebrate skeletons, suggests that Osedax may have had a significant negative effect on the preservation of marine vertebrate skeletons in the fossil record. By destroying vertebrate skeletons before they could be buried, Osedax may be responsible for the loss of data on marine vertebrate anatomy and carcass-fall communities on a global scale,” added Higgs.