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Scientists Discover Massive Sulfur-Eating Hell-Clams
Shipworm that feeds on gas found in Philippines Lagoon (CCSS Level: Grade 9, Words: 433)
Apr 19, 2017 Science & Technology
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Scientist have discovered a hellish, sulfur-eating, worm-like relative of clams living in a Philippines bay, a new study reports. At more than 1.5m long and 5cm wide, these creatures are the longest members in this family of shellfish that exist today, and they look like massive, ink-black, alien boogers.

They are commonly known as the giant shipworm (Kuphus Polythalamia), even though they aren't worms. The giant shipworm was first categorised as a species more than 200 years ago, and continue to be sold to collectors, but no living specimen had been examined by scientists and almost nothing had been known about it. That changed when Daniel Distel, a researcher at Northeastern University, and his colleagues got their hands on a few of the creatures during a research trip to the Philippines. Their analysis, in a study published April 17 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that these creatures are quite bizarre.

The scientists painstakingly chipped the giant shipworms out of their shells and dissected them, but the creatures still didn't give up their secrets easily as they are live inside large shells on the seafloor and grow to a length of more than five feet. That is much larger than other shipworms, which are generally quite small. That, of course, led biologists to wonder why these creatures grow so big.

Relatives of the giant shipworm are known to bore into soggy, submerged wood, digesting the wood particles they churn up with the help of symbiotic bacteria that live in their gills. The giant shipworm, though, is less picky, settling down in muddy seafloor sediments or sometimes rotting wood. But clearly, wood isn't its's only, or even its main, food source.

Other shipworms contain bacteria in their guts that break down cellulose, the stiff material of which plant cell walls are made. An investigation by the researchers, including Margo Haygood of the University of Utah College of Pharmacy, showed that shipworms don't contain large amounts of these bacteria, nor do they have other shipworms's large quantities of woody pulp in their guts. Rather, these giant weirdos contain a collection of unique bacteria that actually feast upon hydrogen sulphide. This gas, which to humans reeks of rotten eggs, is produced by rotting wood and other rotting organic material on the seafloor. This unique adaptation allows these huge animals to live in areas of the seafloor that would otherwise be uninhabitable, and it may also help explain their large size, allowing them to feed on residue that moves to them, rather than having to move about nibbling wood.

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ac-tual

real, in fact


adj.实际

ad-ap-ta-tion

the action or process of adapting or being adapted


n.适应

al-i-en

belonging to a foreign country or another planet


adj.异己/外国的

bac-te-ri-a

one-celled animals, one of the smallest forms of life


n.菌/霉    

bi-zarre

very strange or unusual


adj.异乎寻常

cel-li-lose

the main constituent of plant cell walls and of vegetable fibers


n.纤维素

col-league

a person with whom one works


n.同事

com-mon-ly

very often


adv.常用

con-ti-nue

go on and on


v.继续

crea-ture

an animal, as distinct from a human being


n.生物

crea-tures

animals, beasts


n.生物

di-ges-ting

breaking down (food) in the digestive system into substances that can be absorbed and used by the body


v.消化

dis-co-vered

found, uncovered


v.发现    

ex-plain

make something clear or add detail


v.说明

hy-dro-gen

a very light gas that burns easily


n.氢气

in-clu-ding

containing, having as part of the whole


prep.包含

in-ves-ti-ga-tion

the action of examining something or someone


n.查访/搜寻

lar-ger

bigger


adj.较大

league

placed in order by level or worth


v.盟约

mas-sive

huge, very big

 


adj.大规模的 

or-gan-ic

made from something living


adj.有机

pains-tak-ing

done with or employing great care and thoroughness


adj.刻苦

pub-lished

to put out a book for sale


v.发表

re-la-tives

people connected with us


n.亲戚们

re-search

looking for knowledge


v.调研

re-search-er

person who searches for knowledge


n.研究员

sci-en-tists

experts in science, people who study science


n.科学家

shell

the outer part or covering


n.外壳/贝壳

spe-cies

kinds or sorts of animal


n.种类

spec-i-men

example of its species or type for scientific study or display


n.标本

sub-merged

cause to be under water


adj.湮

sul-phide

a compound of the element sulphur


n.硫化物

sym-bi-ot-ic

having an interdependent relationship


adj.共生

un-in-hab-it-able

(of a place) unsuitable for living in


adj.不适宜居住

u-nique

the only one, not like anything else


adj.独特