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Bone-boring worms: characterizing the morphology, rate, and method of bioerosion by Osedax mucofloris (Annelida, Siboglinidae)
Higgs, N.D.; Glover, A.G.; Dahlgren, T.G.; Little, C.T.S. (2011). Bone-boring worms: characterizing the morphology, rate, and method of bioerosion by Osedax mucofloris (Annelida, Siboglinidae). Biol. Bull. 221(3): 307-316.
In: The Biological Bulletin. Marine Biological Laboratory: Lancaster. ISSN 0006-3185; e-ISSN 1939-8697, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Marine Sciences
    Marine Sciences > Marine Sciences General
    Scientific Community
    Scientific Publication

Project Top | Authors 
  • Association of European marine biological laboratories, more

Authors  Top 
  • Higgs, N.D., more
  • Glover, A.G., more
  • Dahlgren, T.G.
  • Little, C.T.S.

    Osedax worms possess unique “root” tissues that they use to bore into bones on the seafloor, but details of the boring pattern and processes are poorly understood. Here we use X-ray micro-computed tomography to investigate the borings of Osedax mucofloris in bones of the minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), quantitatively detailing their morphological characteristics for the first time. Comparative thin-sections of the borings reveal how the bone is eroded at the sub-millimeter level. On the basis of these results we hypothesize a model of boring that is dependent on the density and microstructure of the bone. We also present evidence of acidic mucopolysaccharides in the mucus of the root tissue, and hypothesize that this plays an important role in the boring mechanism. We discuss the utility of these new data in evaluating Osedax trace fossils and their relevance for O. mucofloris ecology. Measured rates of bone erosion (6% per year) and evidence of enhanced sulfide release from the borings indicate that Osedax worms are important habitat modifiers in whale-fall communities.

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