In case you haven't heard, whales are big. The carcass of a whale weighs over 200 tons and takes months or even years to completely decompose. In the perpetual, freezing blackness of the deep sea abyss, a whale dying is like a zeppelin full of Big Macs crashing over Ethiopia. Entire ecosystems have evolved for the singular purpose of making sure no part of that whale goes to waste, not even its bones.
You might even call it a whale of a feast.
Forming over a whale corpse into what looks like pink fuzz are the countless tentacles of Osedax mucofloris, a relative of worms and leeches whose Latin name translates as "bone-eating snot-flower." We're not kidding.
Their microscopic eggs drift like spores in the deep ocean, lying dormant until the day they bump into recently exposed whale bone. On contact with the gigantic skeleton, they take root like plants, drilling into the bone with a network of fleshy tendrils.
Photo by Osedax Frankpressi
"You say fleshy tendrils like they're a bad thing."
Completely lacking mouths or digestive tracts, the worms depend on symbiotic bacteria to break down the fatty oils contained within bone, so technically, they don't so much eat bone as eat the poop of something inside of them that eats bone. That's right: Nature found a way to make the bone-eating process even more disturbing.
You impressed us once again, Nature.
For more species that need to be eradicated immediately, check out 6 Animals Humanity Accidentally Made Way Scarier and 13 Real Animals Lifted Directly Out of Your Nightmares.
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