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Rock eating shipworm 'Tamilok' discovered in Bohol might lead to new drug discovery

Scientists have recently discovered a bizarre impressive new species of shipworm in Bohol, Philippines. A team of scientists from the Philippines and United States discovered species of shipworm - locally known as antingaw or tamilok - has this interesting behavior which was previously unknown to science. 

        Picture of the shipworm from research The Royal Society

Aside from usual shipworms that eats wood, the team found out that this kind of shipworm eats solid rock. The creature, found exclusively in the Abatan River in Bohol which they called it Lithoredo abatanica.

"It's not only borrowing in the stone, it actually eats the stone," said Dan Distel, the director of Northeastern University's Ocean Genome Legacy project, in a YouTube video. 

It was first discovered by Reuben Shipway and Daniel Distel few tears back, members of the Philippine Mollusk Symbiont International Collaborative Biodiversity Group. Local residents tipped them to check out the bottom of the river, and they found out sandstones filled with holes protruding from rocks.

Researchers made a further investigations and do some tests. They found stone fragments in shipworms' guts, were chemical test showed to be same stone that the animals were living in, The New York Times reported.


The director of the Ocean Genome Legacy of the Northeastern University, Dan Distel added that Lithoredo abatanica is only found in the stretch of Abatan River on Bohol island. "It's the only place in the world."

Scientists have two possible explanations that they are looking useful to these creature. First, the rock fragments might help in grinding up plankton for easier digestion, much like the way gizzard stones help bird's food. Second, the worms could be able to extract nutrients from the stone that the scientists needs to understand.  

Now the team are working together, aims to understand and boost research capabilities that might lead to new drug discovery. 

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