osedax mucofloris


Translated from the mixed Greek and Latin used in scientific names, “Osedax mucofloris” literally means “bone-eating snot-flower” which is an unattractive name for any species, even a sea worm that feasts on dead whales. These deep-sea siboglinid polychaete worms, are alo called boneworms, zombie worms, or bone-eating worms.

Scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute using the submarine ROV Tiburon first discovered the genus in Monterey Bay, California, in February 2002. The worms were found living on the bones of a decaying gray whale in the Monterey Canyon, at a depth of 2,893 m (9,491 ft).

Lacking stomach and mouth, Osedax rely on symbiotic species of bacteria to digest whale fat and oils and to release the nutrients in a form that they can absorb. Osedax have colorful feathery plumes that act as gills and unusual root-like structures that absorb nutrients.

Male Osedax are microscopic dwarfs that live as “harems” inside the lumen of the gelatinous tube that surrounds each female. An individual female can house hundreds of these males in her tube.