Now before you say anything, I know what you are thinking, “He made up that name. There is no such animal. I mean, how can an animal even have “flower” in its name?” OK. Let me answer those thoughts one at a time. “Did NOT!” “Is TOO!” and, lastly, they are called “animal flowers” and they are undersea worms that have evolved sedentary lives where they stay attached to one spot for their entire lives. (Maybe in the future, some humans will evolve into a completely sedentary form that attaches to the Internet and a stationary nutritional energy source, but that’s a different article!) These worms have developed tentacles that radiate from their mouths , so that they can filter food out of their watery environment. So, they look like flowers and a common example is the sea anemone.
But the “bone-eating snot-flower” worm has developed an even stranger lifestyle than the rest of its unusual relatives — it lives off of the bones of whale skeletons on the bottom of the ocean. Like its brethren “flower animal” worms, it also has a feathery plume of tentacles, but they only use them as gills. They also have no mouth; only a “foot” which contains bacteria that “eat” into the marrow of the whale bones and supply the worm’s nutritional needs.
“Bone-eating snot-flower” (patent pending) worms (Osedax mucofloris) are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but their numbers are decreasing. This isn’t due to the large numbers that have been harvested for housepets, but due to the fact that whales themselves are being overhunted and there are fewer available for the poor snot-flower worms to eat. By the way, they probably wouldn’t be suitable for a housepet because they are found about 9000 feet below the ocean surface. This would require a very deep aquarium — out of the question for most houses! Not to mention the cost of finding whale carcasses to feed them!
So, regardless of all the good things you may have heard, I do NOT recommend this animal for a pet. But it WOULD be really cool to tell your friend who is all excited about her new gerbil that YOU have a “bone-eating snot-flower” worm at home! Talk about one-upmanship! Oh well, maybe there is still a unique pet for you; just keep looking!
personal experience (just kidding!)
“Animals” by Keith Laidler (Quercus books)