Potential medical drugs that can be derived from the so-called “giant shipworm” recently discovered in the Philippines are being explored, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The scientific breakthrough provides researchers the first such live animal that they can study.
“We are amazed. This is the first time we saw a shipworm as large as this. Usually, shipworms are only as short as a matchstick and are white,” Filipino marine biologist Julie Albano told AFP.
Quoting Albano, the AFP said “its bacteria are now being studied for possible pharmaceutical use.”
The creature can reportedly grow up to five feet and relies rotten-egg-smelling gas hydrogen sulfide as its food.
It “survives on the remnants of noxious gases digested by bacteria,” AFP explains in its report.
The mollusk was found in Kalamansig town in Sultan Kudarat, Southern Philippines, where it has been known to locals for some time and even eaten as an aphrodisiac reportedly tasting like an octopus.
Its scientific name is Kuphus Polythalamia.
“We suspected the giant shipworm was radically different from other wood-eating shipworms. Finding the animal confirmed that,” University of Utah research professor Margo Haygood was quoted as saying.