On the Air: September 14, 2014
Mangrove forests are increasing in Texas. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

One of the things that the debate about global climate change doesn’t always make clear is that it doesn’t necessarily take a big jump in temperature to create a big change in your surroundings. If you live close to the coasts of Louisiana, Florida, or especially Texas, for example, you may already be seeing one effect: an increase in mangrove forests.
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.