If you like oysters, it’s rebellious to see hairy worms wear down across the appetizer-even though such worms are harmless to people. Internet searches using the keywords “oysters” and “worms” show a large cache of images, each of which is less palatable than the next image.
As Biologist, I am studying invasive species, including these muddy blistering worms. Despite their high Gross Out factor, their parasitic lifestyle is fascinating. Parasites are harmful to the host, but they are also an important part of the Earth’s ecosystem.
Shell bowling worm
Mad blister worms belong to a larger group of segmented worms, collectively known as: Polychaete.. “Poly” means much, and “chaete” means bristles in ancient Greek. Mad blister worms are one of many species that sneak into the shells of animals such as oysters, abalone and scallops and live their lives as adults.
Given the limited nutritional value of oyster and scallop shells made of calcium carbonate, the spread of worms may seem like a strange place. However, instead of feeding on the shell itself, these worms create an amazing network of tunnels within the shell’s matrix and use it as a home rather than a food source.
Worms stick out tentacles through a small opening in the shell to feed and capture food particles from the surrounding seawater. Unlike other parasites that feed directly on the host, mud blister worms must invade the host’s rind and feed to survive.
How many worms can be hidden in one shell? I once counted more than 120 worms emerging from the terrible infestation of Pacific oyster shells. The surface of the oyster looked like something else, but when soaked in a special stimulating solution, a surprising number of worms began to rise, like the creatures of a zombie movie.
Adults tend to sit down. In other words, the adults stay in the tunnel they created and do not actively leave the dormitory. However, the offspring of these worms are free-swimming larvae that are released into the water column after birth and are released. Disperse seeds throughout the ocean..
After mating, the female makes an egg case containing thousands of eggs. Some of them hatch into larvae and some do not hatch at all.The latter is a “nurse egg”, that is Nourish developing offspring.. This is where things get interesting.
In one of my earliest Study of these worms, My colleague and I have found that in a nurse’s egg-depleted situation, large larvae often cannibalize and cannibalize their siblings in the egg case. In other situations, cannibalism occurred even in the presence of nurse eggs.
The mother is responsible for releasing the larvae using A pair of tentacles that burst an egg The case when she chose.She was completed because she is solely responsible for releasing her offspring from the egg case Control which siblings live and which siblings die..
Brothers cannibalism is brutal enough to hear, but in reality animal Kingdom.. For example, the sand tiger shark behaves similarly. Brothers fight each other until death In the womb, in this case, the mother shark does not have as much control as the Mad Blisterworm patriarch.
The evolutionary importance of sibling cannibalism-and why it appears to appear in distant animals such as worms and sharks in the tree of life-is not yet fully known. Active field of evolutionary biology research..
Threats to humans and the aquaculture industry
Fortunately, shell bowling worms do not pose a threat to humans. Except for unexpected protein boosts, accidental ingestion does not cause health problems.
However, these worms Notorious pests in aquaculture..Mollusks Divert energy from growth to shell repair.. In addition, the haunted oyster meat More “watery” consistency Than uninfected oysters. At the same time, these effects result in commercial loss of farms.
For the past few years, scientists have Use of compounds And that Oyster heat shock There is still no silver bullet to control the worm, but to eradicate it.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked facts in zoology is parasitism The most dominant lifestyle on the planet Plays an important role in maintaining the ecosystem Stabilization of food web and adjustment of population size.. Like many marine invertebrates, these worm larvae serve as planktonic foods for animals at the top of the food chain. Contribute to the overall structure of the marine community..
So the next time you go to a seafood restaurant and order two raw oysters, try breaking the shell, probably after you’ve finished eating. You may discover some hidden free loaders.
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This article will be republished from conversation, A non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Andrew David, Clarkson University..
Andrew David does not work, consult, own shares, or receive funds for any company or organization that would benefit from this article.