On the Air: September 28, 2014
More acidic ocean waters can damage corals, image A shows healthy coral, image B shows damaged coral. Credit: USGS

The oceans are probably in for some dramatic changes in the coming decades. They’ll get warmer and more acidic, and they may lose some of their oxygen as well – a trifecta that’s likely to be a losing bet for us as well as the oceans.

In Print: September 1, 2014
Left: a boneworm on a fish bone. Credit: Greg Rouse. Right: shipworms burrowed into a piece of wood. Credit: Christina Bienhold, MPI for Marine Microbiology.

For almost any object in the sea, there’s a creature who will feed on it – even if it’s a whale skeleton or a shipwreck. Though not related to one another, boneworms and shipworms share the remarkable ability to locate their meals in the vast ocean. Boneworms consume the bones of mammals, fish, reptiles and other animals, while shipworms – actually a type of mollusk – use their tiny shells to burrow into the wood of wrecked ships, trees adrift, or other wooden structures in the sea. Despite having neither stomachs nor mouths, both boneworms and shipworms have symbiotic bacteria in their gut that release nutrients from the bones or wood which these “worms” absorb as food.