Because a species of shrimp lives in a place where there is almost no food, it gives them enzymes capable of digesting wood so they can eat wrecks.
Hirondellea gigas was discovered in the Mariana Trench, the deepest place in the earth and in the western Pacific Ocean, in 2009. They live in flocks at a depth of 10,000 meters or more. At that depth, feed density is very low. So biologists don't know where they get the nutrients, National Geographic reports.
A shrimp Hirondellea gigas. (Photo: National Geographic)
Hideki Kobayashi, a marine biologist of the Japan Marine Science and Technology Department, and his colleagues studied H. gigas. They found enzymes capable of digesting wood in their bodies. Thanks to these enzymes, shrimp can eat the trees and wood pieces that sink to the ocean floor.
"Their main food source is wood from sinking ships , " Kobayashi said.
Similar enzymes exist in the digestive system of termites and wood-eating animals. But unlike many marine animals that eat wood, it seems that H. gigas does not feed fungi or bacteria to support wood digestion.
"We think that these shrimp make their own enzymes in their stomachs ," Kobayashi said.
Alan Jamieson, a marine biologist at Aberdeen University in Scotland, thinks H. gigas is capable of starving for long periods of time to wait for trees and shipwrecks to sink to the bottom.
'When the banquet arrives, they will take advantage of the opportunity and eat at full speed , ' Jamieson said.