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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Feb 22;275(1633):387-91.

Marine worms (genus Osedax) colonize cow bones.

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  • 1Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, 7700 Sandholdt Road, Moss Landing, CA 93940, USA.


Bone-eating worms of the genus Osedax colonized and grew on cow bones deployed at depths ranging from 385 to 2893m in Monterey Bay, California. Colonization occurred as rapidly as two months following deployment of the cow bones, similar to the time it takes to colonize exposed whalebones. Some Osedax females found on the cow bones were producing eggs and some hosted dwarf males in their tubes. Morphological and molecular examinations of these worms confirmed the presence of six Osedax species, out of the eight species presently known from Monterey Bay. The ability of Osedax species to colonize, grow and reproduce on cow bones challenges previous notions that these worms are 'whale-fall specialists.'

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