Rosenberg is a professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science for the College of Arts and Sciences, and curator and Pilsbry Chair of Malacology in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
Most shipworms feed by, as their name suggests, boring into and digesting wood with the help of symbiotic bacteria that live in their gills.
But a team of scientists unveiled a new and very different species of shipworm, Lithoredo abatanica, which is unique. It actually eats rock as it burrows, expelling sand as feces. And it appears to exist only in one river in the Philippines.
Gary Rosenberg, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and curator and Pilsbry Chair of Malacology in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, was part of a team led by researchers at Northeastern University that examined and described this new anatomically and morphologically divergent species of shipworm.
“What we didn’t expect is just how bizarre the animal turned out to be.”
The species was first found by a French expedition in 2004 in a freshwater habitat in the Abatan River in the Philippines. The current research group decided to return to the river site in 2018. They found this new genus about two kilometers upstream from the French site, after receiving a tip-off from locals about a rock-eating clam.
“What we didn’t expect is just how bizarre the animal turned out to be,” says Rosenberg, who says this discovery exemplifies the need to preserve and protect our biodiversity. “… How could such an amazing animal have been overlooked for so long?”