Study Looks at How Shipworms Eat Wood

Humans have known for over 2,000 years that shipworms, a worm-like mollusk, are responsible for damage to wooden boats, docks, dikes and piers. New research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst published in Frontiers in Microbiology reveals that we still don’t know the most basic thing about them: how they eat.

Cellulose in wood is encased in a thick and extremely difficult to digest layer of lignin. Researchers are still trying to figure out what within the shipworm could be responsible for breaking down the lignin. A recent study examined specific protein groups in shipworms’ genomes that create the enzymes that are capable of digesting lignin.

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