Meet the Ophryotrocha craigsmithi, a newly discovered species of bristleworm that eats only dead whale bones. But there's a plus side to eating a carcass of an animal that large: a single whale can provide food for 20 years, to be eaten by generations of worms!
Once flesh-eaters like hagfish and sharks have picked clean a whale's skeleton, the 0.8-inch-long (2-centimeter-long) worms go to work, said zoologist Helena Wiklund, a member of the University of Gothenburg team behind the study.
Generations of worms "could be there for maybe 20 years depending on how big the whale was," Wiklund added. "Bones from a big whale last really long on the seafloor."
But when the whale is finally disposed of, the bacteria-munching worms must find another whale carcass, and that could be many miles away.
How the tiny creatures hop from dead whale to dead whale remains a mystery. Some bristle worm species, though, have microscopic larvae that ride ocean currents, Wiklund said.
Mother Nature wastes nothing at all, doesn't she? Link (Photo: Helena Wiklund, University of Gothenburg)