Scientists have found live specimens of the rare giant shipworm for the first time, in the Philippines.

Details of the creature, which can reach up to 1.55m (5ft) in length and 6cm (2.3in) in diameter, were published in a US science journal.

The giant shipworm spends its life encased in a hard shell, submerged head-down in mud, which it feeds on.

Though its existence has been known for years, no living specimen had been studied until now.

Despite its name, the giant shipworm is actually a bivalve – the same group as clams and mussels.

The “rare and enigmatic species”, also known as Kuphus polythamia, is the longest living bivalve known to man, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

The strange shells have been found for centuries, because they are “very sturdy and they last a long time,” said Daniel Distel, the report’s chief author. “But we’ve never known where to find them.”

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SOURCE: BBC News

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