Shipworm

The shipworm is an interesting creature. It has a strong appetite for wood and the unusual ability to tunnel through it, creating the most unusual patterns and holes. Another interesting thing about this strange creature is: a shipworm isn’t really a worm – it’s a type of clam. While most Americans wouldn’t eat a shipworm without a huge discussion before downing it, this sea animal is considered a delicacy in the Palawan — an island province of the Philippines. Called Tamilok throughout the islands, the shipworm is prepared the same as the citrus-marinated seafood dish Ceviche. The taste has been described as “milky” and “tastes just like oysters.” Um, yum?

While the shipworm is a tasty treat to some, to others, it is a nuisance. The shipworm can do great damage to marine piling and wooden hulls. The shipworm does extensive damage to docks and piers or any other structure that may be immersed in the water. Shipworms have a special organ called the gland of Deshayes that allows them to digest cellulose. Their small, slender forms can consume large amounts of wood in a short amount of time.

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Shipworms are also known for their strong appetite for shipwrecks. They can be found eating their way through the wood of sunken ships throughout the world’s deepest seas. While shipworms can be found just about anywhere in the world, concentrations are quite a bit heavier in the Caribbean Sea.

North Atlantic Ocean shipworms called “Teredo navalis,” may grow up to 2 feet long, although its shells will only grow up to 1/2 inches long.

Shipworms belong to the family Teridinidae and are also known as Teredo Worms. They belong to the kingdom Animalia, the phylum Mollusca, the class Bivalvia, and the order Myoida. Other genera within the family

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Teridinidae include:

Bactronophorus
Bankia
Dicyathifer
Kuphus
Lyrodus
Nausitoria
Neoteredo
Nototeredo
Psiloteredo
Spathoteredo
Teredo
Teredora
Teredothyra
Uperotus

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