World-wide whale worms? A new species of Osedax from the shallow north Atlantic

Adrian G Glover, Björn Källström, Craig R Smith, Thomas G Dahlgren

Abstract

We describe a new species of the remarkable whalebone-eating siboglinid worm genus, Osedax, from a whale carcass in the shallow north Atlantic, west of Sweden. Previously only recorded from deep-sea (1500–3000 m) whale-falls in the northeast Pacific, this is the first species of Osedax known from a shelf-depth whale-fall, and the first from the Atlantic Ocean. The new species, Osedax mucofloris sp. n., is abundant on the bones of an experimentally implanted Minke whale carcass (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) at 125 m depth in the shallow North Sea. O. mucofloris can be cultured on bones maintained in aquaria. The presence of O. mucofloris in the shallow North Sea and northeast Pacific suggests global distribution on whale-falls for the Osedax clade. Molecular evidence from mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 (CO1) and 18S rRNA sequences suggests that O. mucofloris has high dispersal rates, and provides support for the idea of whale-falls acting as ‘stepping-stones’ for the global dispersal of siboglinid annelids over ecological and evolutionary time.

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