Rare, alien-like giant shipworm found in the Philippines

Scientists were over the moon after finally acquiring a live specimen of the rare giant shipworm, which looks more like a creature straight out of a Ridley Scott film than the unicorn of mollusks.


NSFW    PHILIPPINES — Scientists have known about the giant shipworm for centuries, but none have seen a living, breathing specimen … until now.

Giant shipworms aren’t actually worms, but bivalves like clams and mussels. They live in three-foot-long tubular shells planted in muddy, shallow bays.

This unicorn of the mollusk world was recently discovered in the southern part of the Philippines.

A local TV segment about the creatures tipped off a team from Northeastern University, who went to a lagoon in Mindanao’s Sultan Kudarat province and managed to collect five live worms.

Back in the lab, researchers cut off one end of the shell and shook out the slimy, black baseball-sized mass of flesh.

Unlike the common shipworm which feeds on rotting wood, its giant cousin has bacteria in its gills that churn out nutrients from carbon dioxide.

It still has digestive organs despite its unique mode of survival, but they’re tiny from lack of use.

The team’s findings on the creature were compiled in a study and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

It’s not clear how many of the weird-looking creatures are left in the wild, so the team is keeping the exact location of the shipworm home a secret.

Locals, though, have been harvesting the giant worms for years, eating it as an aphrodisiac, medicine, and just a tasty side dish.
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