Osedax: Ancient bone eaters

  Somewhere, in the depths of the ocean, a marine ambrosia descends from above; the body of a dead whale.  Despite the depth, the corpse won’t be in solitude long; a mini-ecosystem will soon erupt around it, one that could last a decade. The body draws hag fish, sea cucumbers, rat tail fish, brittle star fish, a host of other invertebrates and myriad species of bacteria, all come to feast on the marine bounty. And soon the ‘bone devourers’, Osedax, come too.

A dried up celibate kleptomaniac

If there’s one thing that biologists agree on, it’s that sex is good. Really good*. Huge amounts of time and energy are invested in it. Well, alas, not so much in the act per se, as much as in finding a way to have sex; to tempt a mate or dispatch a rival. But is it really worth the ego busting knock-backs, the frustration, the time and energy? One quirky animal certainly doesn’t think so; it’s had a dry patch on a geological timescale. For the last 80 million years or so a small pond and fresh water dwelling animal called a bdelloid rotifer has done away with sex, and males, entirely. How has it managed for so long without sex? Simple. It steals.