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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 May 11;107(19):8656-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1002014107. Epub 2010 Apr 27.

Fossil traces of the bone-eating worm Osedax in early Oligocene whale bones.

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Institut für Geowissenschaften, Christian-Albrechts-Universität, 24118 Kiel, Germany.


Osedax is a recently discovered group of siboglinid annelids that consume bones on the seafloor and whose evolutionary origins have been linked with Cretaceous marine reptiles or to the post-Cretaceous rise of whales. Here we present whale bones from early Oligocene bathyal sediments exposed in Washington State, which show traces similar to those made by Osedax today. The geologic age of these trace fossils ( approximately 30 million years) coincides with the first major radiation of whales, consistent with the hypothesis of an evolutionary link between Osedax and its main food source, although older fossils should certainly be studied. Osedax has been destroying bones for most of the evolutionary history of whales and the possible significance of this "Osedax effect" in relation to the quality and quantity of their fossils is only now recognized.

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