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Q&A: Extraordinary Four-Foot-Long Clams Finally Found Alive

By Frank Otto

kuphus polythamia giant shipworm 2


April 26, 2017

Hiding inside a hard shell that’s up to four feet long and resembles an elephant tusk, there’s a dark-colored earthworm-like creature. At one end, the creature’s body forms a slight bulb. At the other, claw-like appendages. It doesn’t really eat on its own, but ingests products made by bacteria that live within it.

That sounds an awful lot like something leaked from a Comic Con panel on “Alien: Covenant,” doesn’t it?

Instead, it’s real, it’s related to run-of-the-mill clams, and we’ve known about it for centuries. It’s just that, now, we finally have seen one alive.

Gary Rosenberg, PhD, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and curator and Pilsbry Chair of Malacology in the Academy of Natural Sciences, was part of a team that examined and described the very first living specimen of giant shipworm, Kuphus polythamia, known to Western science. And, recently, he found specimens of his own in the Philippines.

Rosenberg gives us a closer look at the bivalve whose shells have been often found but mystified scientists for years.

Read more at the Drexel News Blog