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Gribbles Are The Termites Of The Sea

September 18th, 2017

Gribbles Are The Termites Of The Sea

If you think that your wood-made boat is safe from wood-eating creatures while at sea, then there is a chance that you may be sadly wrong. Everyone knows that termites are land dwelling wood-eaters that cost billions in economic damage every year. However, living on a houseboat will not necessarily allow you to avoid property damage caused by wood-devouring animals. Unfortunately, wood-eating arthropods exist in the oceans too. These wood-eating arthropods do not belong to the insecta subphylum, as termites do; instead gribbles, as they are commonly referred, belong to the crustacea subphylum. Despite this difference, termites and gribbles (Limnoria lignorum) do possess many similarities. For example, both of these arthropods satisfy their appetites by feeding on the cellulose contained within wood and plant matter.

Gribbles have been notorious throughout history for destroying important wooden structures. According to National Geographic, Christopher Columbus was forced to postpone a return trip to Spain because gribbles had rendered his enormous wood-made ships worthless for sea navigation. Gribbles are a problem for man-made structures even today, as piers, docks, driftwood, and nontreated wooden boats are often found with signs of extensive gribble damage. Some piers have even been known to have collapsed as a result of gribble activity.

An enormous wood-made seawall that separates residents of Washington, especially Seattle, from the ocean has undergone gribble-induced damage repair for decades. Back in November of 2012, residents of Washington voted on a bill that would have allowed two hundred and ninety million dollars to go towards the construction of a new half-mile long seawall. In addition to that, the bill was also going to replace piers that had become too dangerous for human activity as a result of gribble damage. Experts have warned that an earthquake in the area could bring down the fragile seawall, turning Seattle and surrounding areas into a catastrophic flood-zone.

Luckily, these days structures that are made of wood are treated with chemicals that prevent gribble damage. Many experts claim that gribbles are beneficial to the sea and river environments because they consume unsightly driftwood. Also, some experts believe that gribbles and termites could be used to break down dead plant life in order to create future biofuels.

Do you think that using wood to build piers is a bad idea given the well known existence of gribbles? Is the chemically treated wood that is used to build piers a possible water pollutant?

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