Scientists in the Philippines have discovered the first living giant shipworm.
The creature’s existence has been established for years, but no live specimen had previously been found.
The animal can reach a length of up to 1.55m (5ft) and a diameter of 6cm (2.3in).
The living specimen’s discovery was detailed in US science journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
The shipworm is part of the bivalve family, in the same group as mussels and clams, and spends its life encased in a hard shell, feeding on mud.
The study said this ‘rare and enigmatic species’, known as Kuphus polythamia, is the longest living bivalve known to man.
A team of scientists from the Philippines, France and the US discovered five giant shipworms in a marine bay in Mindanao.
They cut off one end of the shipworm’s shell before shaking out the long, slimy and black animal.
Shipworms are usually must smaller and feed on rotting wood.
The giant shipworm creates its own hard shell from calcium carbonate and even has a protective cap over its head, which it reabsorbs to burrow into the mud for food.
(Main picture: PNAS)