LISTEN TO TLR’S LATEST PODCAST:
By Andrew Follett
Scientists discovered a new worm-like animal Monday that looks like something out of a science fiction horror movie.
Kuphus polythalamia is a black worm-like animal that lives inside five-foot-long shells planted in the mud of shallow lagoons across the Philippines.
This is the first live specimen of Kuphus polythalamia ever captured. Even though the creature looks like a giant worm, it’s actually related to clams. For a biologist interested in this kind of animal, the specimen is “like a unicorn,” according to Margo Haygood, a medicinal chemistry professor at the University of Utah.
An international team of scientists from the University of Utah, Northeastern University, and the University of the Philippines discovered the animal.
“I was awestruck when I first saw the sheer immensity of this bizarre animal,” Marvin Altamia, a marine science researcher at the University of the Philippines who was involved in the discovery, said in a press statement. “Finding the animal confirmed that. Frankly, I was nervous. If we made a mistake, we could lose the opportunity to discover the secrets of this very rare specimen.”
The odd animal hardly eats, instead getting energy from beneficial bacteria living in its gills. This process is similar to the way plants use the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide in the air into simple carbon compounds during photosynthesis.