Simon   Cragg, PhD

Simon Cragg, PhD

University of Portsmouth

Professor of Marine Zoology

Expertise: EndeavourEndeavourMarine BiologyMarine BiologyShipwreckShipwreck

Professor Cragg is currently exploring mechanisms for digesting woody plant detritus in the marine environment. He is exploring environmental implications of woody detritus processing in the sea through the tropical sites run by Operation Wallacea and through his membership of the Mangrove Specialist Group of IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

Professor Cragg's research interests are:

- Wood Marine wood borers: the isopod Limnoria, teredinids (shipworms, Bivalvia) and the weevil Pselactus
- Innovative approaches to wood protection in the sea
- Teredinid and other bivalve larvae: anatomy and behaviour
- Borer-microorganism interactions:
       * ecology of epibiosis of ciliates on limnoriid exoskeletons
       * microorganisms in guts of borers
- The role of marine wood borers in maintaining biodiversity in mangrove ecosystems

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Professor Cragg's comments on the discovery of Endurance Endeavour is in excellent condition principally due to not getting eaten by marine wood borers (shipworms, xylophagaids, gribble). Shipworms have been the bane of wooden ships throughout history and determined ship design from the classical Greek period through to Nelson's time and even today. There are marine borers that can tolerate low water temperatures and gribble and the xylophagaids tolerate the very deep waters such as those where Endurance is located, shipworms are much more common in surface waters. Xylophagaids are related to shipworms and don't have a convenient vernacular name as they are mainly restricted to deep waters and so are rarely a threat to human activities (the xylo relates to wood: think xylophone, the phaga bit relates to eating). The lack of wood borers is probably due to lack of wood in the Antarctic, so no opportunity for borers to become established. The ocean current driven by winds that circulate around the Antarctic continent appears to act as a barrier to the spread of marine organisms from outside the polar area. Decay of wood by marine bacteria and marine fungi is very slow, especially at low temperatures.

- Shackleton's lost ship Endurance is found 107 years after sinking

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