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Bone-eating Osedax worms lived on Mesozoic marine reptile deadfall

Ben Creisler

A new online paper:

Silvia Danise  & Nicholas D. Higgs (2015)
Bone-eating Osedax worms lived on Mesozoic marine reptile deadfalls
Biology Letters 2015 11 20150072 (advance online publication)
DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0072

We report fossil traces of Osedax, a genus of siboglinid annelids that
consume the skeletons of sunken vertebrates on the ocean floor, from
early-Late Cretaceous (approx. 100 Myr) plesiosaur and sea turtle
bones. Although plesiosaurs went extinct at the end-Cretaceous mass
extinction (66 Myr), chelonioids survived the event and diversified,
and thus provided sustenance for Osedax in the 20 Myr gap preceding
the radiation of cetaceans, their main modern food source. This
finding shows that marine reptile carcasses, before whales, played a
key role in the evolution and dispersal of Osedax and confirms that
its generalist ability of colonizing different vertebrate substrates,
like fishes and marine birds, besides whale bones, is an ancestral
trait. A Cretaceous age for unequivocal Osedax trace fossils also
dates back to the Mesozoic the origin of the entire siboglinid family,
which includes chemosynthetic tubeworms living at hydrothermal vents
and seeps, contrary to phylogenetic estimations of a Late
Mesozoic–Cenozoic origin (approx. 50–100 Myr).