Researchers Just Discovered a New Species at the Bottom of the Ocean—and it Looks Like a Penis

“We have no idea how much wood is at the bottom of the ocean.”

A wood-boring clam inside of a piece of wood.Jenna Judge

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Of all the strange creatures that live on the ocean floor, one newly discovered aquatic animal might look surprisingly familiar. This wood-boring clam bears a striking resemblance to, well, wood.

Researchers have discovered three new groups and one new species of deep-sea wood-munching clams, according to a new paper in the Journal of Molluscan Studies. They burrow through waterlogged pieces of wood that have fallen to the bottom of the sea, then eat the sawdust they’ve scraped off. The clams work in massive numbers to eat away at wood washed out to sea from storms. “We have no idea how much wood is at the bottom of the ocean, but there’s probably a lot more than we think,” said Janet Voight, the lead author of the study and Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Field Museum in Chicago.

The clams play an important role in deep-sea ecosystems. “These clams contribute to the cycling of carbon, they play an integral part in making the wood into something that the other animals at the bottom of the ocean can get energy from,” Voight said. “It could even affect sea level rise. It blows me away.”

Don’t get too excited about their phallic shape, though: they happen to be about the size of a pea.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate