Even after thousands of years, the destructive appetite of shipworms is a mystery

Even after thousands of years, the destructive appetite of shipworms is a mystery

Shipworms are voracious bites. These “termites” have been sinking ships and destroying docks for thousands of years with their unsatisfactory appetite, however, scientists still do not know how they could digest so much woody plant matter so quickly.

Even the Greeks wrote about them

worm (Teredinidae) is not actually a worm, because in fact it belongs to an unusual group of saltwater, with a largely regressive home. It has become notorious for digging itself in wood submerged in sea water, thus in many cases damaging wooden structures such as docks, docks, and wooden ships.

Giant nematode (Kuphus polythamia) removed from its shellSource: PNAS

They are incredible animals and it is no coincidence that they are called sea antsSaid Robin Shipway, a microbiologist at the University of Portsmouth in England ScienceAlert Online science portal. The ancient Greeks already wrote about it, but Christopher Columbus also lost his fleet to their destruction, and worms still cause billions of dollars in damage every year.

But these animals are full of mystery. Compared to termites, scientists have previously neglected the study of shipworms for some reason. As a result, we know very little about how these interesting sea creatures digest woody plant matter.

Specific protein groups were searched

Digestion is usually associated with microbes, but scientists only recently discovered a surprisingly sterile intestinal tract in shipworms. While the gills can provide enzymes to digest cellulose when needed, researchers can’t figure out exactly “how they work.” Frontiers in Microbiology According to a study published in a scientific journal

Shipworms do not have to deal, for example, with lignin, a complex chemical that is mostly obtained from wood.

These jaws lack the enzymes that would normally break down this solid.

Even today, worms “operation” is a mysteryForrás: American Association for the Advancement of Science

We examined the complete genomes of five different types of nematodes and looked for specific groups of proteins that produce enzymes that we know are able to digest lignin. Stefanos Stravoravidis, a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts, noted this. My search failed.

How do worms digest wood? This remains a mystery. Previous research on this group of brine mussels has not identified any enzymes known to degrade lignin. Only those that break down cellulose.

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