Giant shipworm found alive for first time

Black fleshy creature discovered in the Philippines will creep you out

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A giant shipworm has been found alive for the first time in the Philippines.

The mud-dwelling creature, which is black and fleshy in appearance, spends its life encased in a shell and feeds on marine sediment.

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Though its existence has been recognised for more than 200 years, no living one has been analysed until now.

Details of the giant shipworm, which can grow up to 5ft in length, were published in US science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Credits: University of Utah Health

Scientist carefully open the giant shipworm's shell

Five specimens were collected in Mindanao in a former pond before they were taken to the University of the Philippines where they were dissected.

Footage captured by researchers showed experts carefully shaking the slimy worm from its hard case before it snakes out onto a table.

Described as a "rare and enigmatic species", the giant shipworm is a mollusc and is known to be the longest living bivalve known to man.

Credits: University of Utah Health

Specimens were found embedded in mud in the Philippines

Unlike other members of the shipworm family, whose members feed on and burrow in wood and are much smaller, the giant species feeds on mud and marine sediment using a type of bacteria.

Scientists say its habits, habitat, life history and anatomy are yet to be fully explained.

Daniel Distel, from the Ocean Genome Legacy Center at Northeastern University in Boston, told New Scientist, he had been looking for the shipworm for two decades.

He said: "It's hard not to be amazed when seeing one in the flesh, even if you know nothing about them.

"There is no other animal like them."

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