Wednesday, 19 April 2017

‘Unicorn of mollusks’ found in the Philippines

April 18, 2017

by Chuck Bednar

A giant, black, worm-like bivalve whose existence was only known from a few dead specimens and shell fragments has at long last been discovered and investigated by a team of scientists from the US and Philippines, the University of Utah announced Monday in a statement.

Known as the giant shipworm or Kuphus polythalamia, the creature is a mud-dwelling mollusk which appears to consume little food, instead choosing to gather its energy from a type of sulfur, the study authors explained in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The shipworm leaves behind three-foot-long tube-shaped shells that are “fairly common”, said lead investigator Dr. Daniel Distel, a professor, and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center at Northeastern University. Its shells led taxonomist Carl Linnaeus to include the creature in the book which led to the scientific naming system, Systema Naturae, the Washington Post said.

“But,” Dr. Distel added, “we have never had access to the animal living inside.” Its elusiveness led co-author and Utah microbiologist Margo Haygood to call it “the unicorn of mollusks” in an interview with the Post. Now, however, the seemingly mythical creature has been located.

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