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Science. 2004 Jul 30;305(5684):668-71.

Osedax: bone-eating marine worms with dwarf males.

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  • 1South Australian Museum, North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia.


We describe a new genus, Osedax, and two new species of annelids with females that consume the bones of dead whales via ramifying roots. Molecular and morphological evidence revealed that Osedax belongs to the Siboglinidae, which includes pogonophoran and vestimentiferan worms from deep-sea vents, seeps, and anoxic basins. Osedax has skewed sex ratios with numerous dwarf (paedomorphic) males that live in the tubes of females. DNA sequences reveal that the two Osedax species diverged about 42 million years ago and currently maintain large populations ranging from 10(5) to 10(6) adult females.

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