In the deep sea, just like above the waters, one creature’s death provides nourishment for countless other critters to thrive on. When carcasses of backboned animals such as a whale sink into the abyss, various specialized, decomposer organisms eventually set in—feeding exclusively on these remnants.
Among these organisms are the zombie worms, a name given to a group of bone-eating annelid worms scientifically known as Osedax. These specialized feeders are typically found in deeper waters, where decomposition process is slowed down by the low temperature. Despite their diversity and broad biogeographic range, the first Osedax species was only discovered in 2002, and formally described two years later. Since then, over two dozen species have been spotted.
One particular species of Osedax, however, was recently discovered in the temperate waters of Mediterranean, more specifically off the coast of Blanes, Spain. This finding suggests that these worms are more versatile than previously thought, although they are still associated with decomposition in deeper waters.