‘Phallic’ clams found penetrating seafloor wood
A strange new species of clam that’s shaped like a penis has been discovered by scientists.
The phallic creature roams the ocean floor and munches on soggy wood for its dinner.
Bits of fallen trees sometimes find their way from rivers into oceans and the clam burrows deep into the wood, living the rest of its life in the hole it has made.
Experts said the deep sea critters are surprisingly plentiful considering their niche eating habits. The research was published in the Journal of Molluscan Studies.
“Imagine living at the bottom of the ocean as a tiny swimming clam; you either have to find a sunken piece of wood or die,” said Janet Voight, a curator at the Field Museum in Chicago.
“You wouldn’t think there’d be that many kinds of clams doing this.”
All clams are aquatic animals with two shells covering a soft, squishy body.
Wood-boring clams have a long, extending organ that protrudes from their wooden home into the ocean.
The phallic tool allows them to grab oxygen and other nutrients – though it means they aren’t exactly PG.
Previously it was thought there were only a few species of the clam in the wild, but experts at the Field Museum have found more.
They trawled through the museum’s collection of wood-eating clams in search of undiscovered animals, identifying three new genus groups and one new species.
“There’s not just one tree-cleaner-upper in the ocean, they’re really diverse,” Voight said. “We’ve now found that there are six different groups, called genera and around sixty different species.”
Wood-boring clams eat by flexing their muscles and rocking their shells against their wooden homes.
This scrapes off little pieces that the clam eats and digests with the help of special bacteria in their gills.
Along with termites and shipworms, they’re some of the only animals on Earth that can eat wood.
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