A new breed of worm eats a crocodile in an amazing experiment

Warning to readers not afraid of the ocean depths: This story may soon change that.

In 2019, a group of researchers who wanted to spark excitement in the sea's mysterious recesses conducted a unique experiment.

The team, from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), dropped three dead alligators 6,560 feet (2,000 meters) into the Gulf of Mexico to see how the deep-sea creatures would react to an unfamiliar food source.

Initially, scientists thought that reptiles' tough skins would repel predators, because it would make it difficult for them to access the desirable soft flesh.

However, it was quickly proven that this was not the case.

Within one day, nine large isopods (Giant Pathynomus) They have been observed feeding on the first carcass, eventually piercing its skin and eating their meal from the inside out—imagine a crew of foot-long pink woodlice crawling over an alligator and you'll get the picture.

A number of Bathynomus giganteus fish were seen devouring the 30 kg carcassMcLean et al.

The second crocodile, which was dropped about 100 kilometers away, was almost completely devoured in just 51 days – leaving behind only its skull, spine, rope and the weight that was used to pin it to the sea floor.

The tiny food scraps became a source of great excitement for researchers when they noticed they were being targeted by an entirely new species of bone-eating worm.

They concluded that it appeared to be a member of the Osedax family – known as “zombie worms” because they suck on the bones of the dead and live on them – which had never been seen in all of Mexico before.

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Tests revealed that its closest identifiable relatives are native to Antarctica and California, making it an “undescribed species.”

The researchers wrote in a paper about their discovery, which was published in the journal PlusThat the creature “will be named in due time.”

From top left: The second crocodile on the day it was shot down, then its remains 51 days later, dyed a rusty color indicating the presence of the Osedax worm. McLean et al.

So, what happened to the third crocodile?

Well, that part is a mystery, because within eight days of landing at the 1,996-meter-deep lookout, it was gone.

Researchers noted that although the body was gone, the 20.4kg anchor, shackle and rope used to weigh the animal were found 8.3m away, indicating they had been “dragged” there.

Experts concluded that a “major scavenger” had likely captured the reptile. Given the depth at which it was left, and “the implied body size needed to consume a medium-sized crocodile and move a significant amount of weight,” it was likely a large shark.

Clearly, whatever monster it was, it didn't feel like sharing its dinner with a bunch of greedy worms.

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