Microbes in a Giant Worm in the News

Article: Science fiction horror wriggles into reality with discovery of giant sulfur-powered shipworm


Source: University of Utah Health April 17, 2017

Summary: Scientists went searching for a type of shipworm they had known about, but had no idea where it’s preferred habitat was. After learning it lived in muddy, shallow lagoons, they took one and had a look at it’s biology where they found that the worm mostly uses/exclusively uses microbes that turn hydrogen sulfide into carbon compounds to get its food. The microbes live in the worms gills and provide carbon compounds to the worm.

Connections: The microbes in the worm’s gills perform anoxygenic photosynthesis that benefit the worm and are a key part of the worm’s microbial community much like humans have beneficial microbes that we use in our microbial communities.

Critical Analysis: I thought the article did a fair job of explaining the results of the scientist’s inquiry into this strange worm and had an overall good background to their study. The article did have some problems though; the title misleads readers into thinking the worm itself uses sulfur as a source of energy when it uses the carbon compounds produced from microbes that use the sulfur. The article did explain this later on, and was written in a way most people could understand, so I have no other complaints.

Question: The article mentioned how this 3-5ft worm likely uses only microbes to sustain itself, so I wondered if it would be possible to find a larger  organism that could exclusively use similar microbes to sustain itself like this worm does.