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Last Updated: Wednesday October 19 2005 08:20 GMT

Bone-eating snot-flower uncovered

The worm lives off whale bones

Scientists have discovered a gross new beastie at the bottom of the sea floor, called the bone-eating snot-flower.

The worms, found near the Swedish coast, burrow into whale bones, leaving mucus-covered plumes poking out.

Animals like the zombie worms, as they are also known, are usually found in the Pacific Ocean, so finding a new one in the North Sea was a big surprise.

Scientists think the discovery could show how important dead whales are to animals on the ocean floor.

The gross new worms were discovered by Adrian Glover and Thomas Dahlgren, who called it Osedax mucofloris, which is Latin for bone-eating snot-flower.

"They look like flowers poking out of the whale bone, " said Dr Glover.

"The part of the animal that is exposed to the seawater is covered in a ball of mucus, so they are quite snotty. That is probably a defence mechanism."

It's thought lots of animals live off the bodies of whales, known as "whale-fall".

Hunting whales could threaten all these creatures.

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