|Zombie worms feeding upon a rotting whale carcass|
The fossil in question is one of those fantastic 'back room' discoveries; not found in a remote quarter of a desert, but simply rediscovered, sitting under a layer of dust in the vaults of a museum.
|The fossilised whale bone rediscovered |
at the Florence Natural History Museum
Higgs found no specimens which displayed the correct markings. Yet after a week he found a fossil. A full CT scan confirmed the presence of boreholes made by zombie worms which were very similar to modern day species. While fossil zombie worms are very rare (their soft bodied nature makes preservation very unlikely) their distinctive feeding traces are far more common. What makes this specimen interesting is that it was discovered in the Mediterranean.
No zombie worms or their feeding traces had been found in the Mediterranean, either in the modern day or fossil record. This find shows that such annelids are far more diverse than previously thought. It also made Dr Higgs think that there may be a completely new species of zombie worm on Earth, descended from the owners of the feeding traces. As the traces are not quite the same as known examples, the evidence does point towards a new species.