Category Archives: World

Scientists discover a giant black worm monster in the Philippines

Scientists have discovered a hellish, sulfur-eating, worm-like relative of clams living in a Philippines bay, a new study reports. At more than five feet long and two inches wide, these creatures are the longest members in this family of shellfish that exist today — and they look like massive, ink-black, alien boogers.

Known as the giant shipworm (Kuphus polythalamia), even though they aren’t worms, they’ve never before been described in the scientific literature. But scientists knew that they had to exist, because of the massive, elephant tusk-like shells that stick around even when their horrifying denizens are gone. The shells were first described in the 1700s, and continue to be sold to collectors, but scientists were previously unable to find ones that still contained living shipworms to study, Popular Science reports.

In fact, Margo Haygood, a medicinal chemistry professor at the University of Utah, and her colleagues only knew where to look for them because a cluster of the shells had been caught on camera. The calcified tusks were spotted in a documentary film, poking out of the muddy seafloor in a shallow Filipino bay that had once been used to store logs. Researchers retrieved five specimens from the area, and published their findings today in the journalPNAS.

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The scientists painstakingly chipped the giant shipworms out of their shells and dissected them, but the creatures still didn’t give up their secrets easily. The scientists were particularly stumped as to exactly how the worms grow so big. The cap of the giant shipworm’s shell seals over its mouth, presumably stopping it from directly consuming the sediment it lives in, and there were only “trace quantities of fecal matter” in their digestive systems. So, what were these worms eating?

Relatives of the giant shipworm are known to bore into soggy, submerged wood — digesting the wood particles they churn up with the help of symbiotic bacteria that live in their gills. The giant shipworm, though, is less picky — shacking up in muddy seafloor sediments or rotting wood. So clearly, wood isn’t its only, or even its main, food source.

 

Haywood and her colleagues suspected the giant shipworms might instead be consuming hydrogen sulfide released by decaying vegetation or rotting animal carcasses at the bottom of the bay. But hydrogen sulfide, which gives swamp gas its eau de rotten eggs, isn’t all that nutritious.

The worms would need symbiotic bacteria to digest down the inorganic compound and release more nutritious carbon for them to eat. Fortunately for the worms, scientists used electron microscopes to discover microbes that could do just that, living in the giant shipworms’ gills.

Source:

http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/17/15334178/giant-shipworm-mollusk-sulfur-eating-shellfish-science

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Japan zoo kills 57 monkeys carrying ‘invasive alien’ genes

A Japanese zoo has killed 57 snow monkeys, nearly one-third of the species in the facility, for carrying “invasive alien” genes, zoo officials said, adding that the animals were all crossbreeds and culling them is legally allowed.

The incident took place in Takagoyama Nature Zoo in the city of Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture, some 45km from Tokyo.

Zoo officials discovered that of 164 Japanese macaques (also known as snow monkeys), at least 57 were crossbreeds with rhesus macaques.

The monkeys were killed by lethal injection, a Futtsu official told AFP, adding that the zoo operator held a memorial service for the macaques at a nearby Buddhist temple.  

Snow monkey-rhesus macaque crossbreeds are considered an “invasive alien species” in Japan, the zoo operator and local officials said.

“They have to be killed to protect the indigenous environment,” another official with the Chiba prefectural government told AFP.
The zoo said that the culling was “unavoidable” and decided to take measures to prevent crossbreeding in the future, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.  

The remaining 107 Japanese macaques will be kept in the zoo, which also promised to submit all new-born monkeys to DNA testing, Chiba Nippo newspaper reported.  

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According to Junkichi Mima, spokesman for conservation group WWF Japan, invasive species like rhesus macaques cause problems “because they get mixed in with indigenous animals and threaten the natural environment and ecosystem.”

“Preventing exposures to foreign animals is very important,” Tomoko Shimura of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan added.

Japan’s Environment Ministry currently allows zoos to keep such crossbreeds.

“There are many zoos in the country which rear animals that became classified as invasive species after the law was created,” a ministry official said, as cited by AFP.

Source:

https://www.rt.com/news/378137-japan-kills-alien-monkeys/