Osedax: Bone-Eating Marine Worms with Dwarf Males

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Science  30 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5684, pp. 668-671
DOI: 10.1126/science.1098650

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We describe a new genus, Osedax, and two new species of annelids with females that consume the bones of dead whales via ramifying roots. Molecular and morphological evidence revealed that Osedax belongs to the Siboglinidae, which includes pogonophoran and vestimentiferan worms from deep-sea vents, seeps, and anoxic basins. Osedax has skewed sex ratios with numerous dwarf (paedomorphic) males that live in the tubes of females. DNA sequences reveal that the two Osedax species diverged about 42 million years ago and currently maintain large populations ranging from 105 to 106 adult females.

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