Sulphur-powered giant shipworm unearthed in Philippines

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Updated 19 April 2017
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Sulphur-powered giant shipworm unearthed in Philippines

MANILA: An enormous black worm that lives in the mud of the sea floor and survives on the remnants of noxious gases digested by bacteria has been unveiled by scientists for the first time.
The slimy giant shipworm can grow up to 155 centimeters (five feet) in length, despite living a sedentary life in ocean sediment and apparently eating nothing more than the waste products of the micro-organisms that live in its gills.
“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.
The shipworm is a not actually a worm at all, but a bivalve — like mussels and clams — and has its own brittle, tusk-like shell.
Also known by its scientific name Kuphus Polythalamia, the mollusc is radically different from its smaller shipworm cousins, which burrow in — and digest — wood.
Researchers who analyzed the creature found that although it had its own digestive system, this was shrunken and appeared to be largely redundant.
Instead, Kuphus Polythalamia relies on bacteria that live in its gills, which digest hydrogen sulphide — a gas that smells of rotten eggs — from the mud and emit traces of carbon.
The process is photosynthesis in plants, where they take carbon dioxide from the air, use the carbon to grow and expel oxygen as a by-product.
“We suspected the giant shipworm was radically different from other wood-eating shipworms. Finding the animal confirmed that,” said Margo Haygood, a research professor at the University of Utah who also took part in the study.
The discovery of the giant shipworm, a species never before studied, marked the first time scientists had live specimens in hand, according to an article published this week in American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This remarkable species remains to be fully described and explained,” the journal said.
Albano said the giant shipworm was found in the coastal town of Kalamansig in southern Sultan Kudarat province and its bacteria are now being studied for possible pharmaceutical use.
While the odd-looking animals are new to international marine scientists, Albano said, local people have clearly known all about them for years.
“The shipworm is edible, tastes like an octopus,” she said. “Locals eat it and it serves as an aphrodisiac for them.”


Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

Engineers and researchers at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology display the payload they have developed after months of painstaking research and testing. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Saudi team develops payload for use in joint lunar exploration with Chinese Space Agency

  • The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017,
  • Under the agreement, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space censoring system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.

JEDDAH: Saudi engineers and researchers have completed work on a payload for a Chinese space vehicle that will explore the moon, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman's visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017, the SPA said, quoting Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
The joint venture intends to study and explore the moon, "particularly the invisible side of it to provide scientific data for researchers and specialist in space research and science."
As agreed upon by the KACST and the Chinese Space Agency, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space sensory system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.
"The payload was readied in a record time of no more than 12 months during which the Saudi research team faced numerous challenges, most prominent of which was the importance of manufacturing a compact payload with a high capacity of less than 10.5 cu.cm and a weight of no more than 630 grams on the Chinese satellite," the KACST head said.
The payload consists of photographic and data processing units, among others, that is not only light in weight but also able to endure the space environment.
The equipment is capable of taking photos from different angles and altitudes that varies according to the lunar orbit changes, Prince Turki was quoted by the SPA as saying.
"Saudi Arabia's taking part in this great event would boost, no doubt, its efforts to develop its satellite technologies and use it in several fields of reconnaissance and distance censoring as well as space telecommunications, in addition to proceeding with the march of catching the world race in this field," he said.