Press Room
10 November 2009

Images related to the MBARI News Release
A motley collection of boneworms

Note: These images may not be copied, reprinted, or used without explicit permission from MBARI or from the photographers. Members of the media needing higher-resolution versions should contact Kim Fulton-Bennett,, 831-775-1835.

Whale skeleton on seafloor
Image credit: © 2006 MBARI

This photo shows the skull of a dead whale on the seafloor—the preferred habitat for boneworms.

Image credit: © 2009 Greg Rouse

This photograph shows a female of an as yet un-named boneworm in the genus Osedax, which has been carefully removed from the whale bone in which it was growing. This worm has green, feathery palps, which extract oxygen from seawater. At its lower end are an ovisac and bulbous "roots," which would normally be embedded in the whale bone.

Image credit: © 2008 Greg Rouse

Most female boneworms have long, graceful "palps" that wave in the ocean currents.

Image credit: © 2008 Greg Rouse

Subtle differences in the tubes and palps of the different types of boneworms, along with differences in the worms' DNA, allow researchers to determine which worms are different species.

Image credit: © 2009 Greg Rouse

This type of boneworm is so small that it is barely visible to the naked eye.

Image credit: © 2005 MBARI

These unusual boneworms live in seafloor sediment and send roots into the sediment, presumably to digest fragments of bone.

Video of dead whales and boneworms on YouTube, narrated by Bob Vrijenhoek:

Last updated: Jan. 08, 2016