Deep-sea worms drop acid to get dinner

Bone-eating worms produce chemicals to dissolve and feed on skeletons

By Rachel Ehrenberg, 16:10 PM May 1, 2013

Bone-eating worms, the deep-sea creatures that feed on whale skeletons and other bones, dissolve their dinner in an acid bath. Now scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., have pinpointed the worms’ acid-making machinery: Cells in the creatures’ rootlike bases are loaded with proteins that generate acid and pump it onto the bones.

The delicate, feathery-fronded creatures in the genus Osedax use acid to get at the nutritious collagen and fat in bone. But how ...

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