They bedeviled ancient Greek navies, helped shipwreck Christopher Columbus, aided in the sinking of the Spanish Armada and caused the wharves in San Francisco Bay to collapse into the sea, but until now, scientists have been unable to pinpoint exactly how shipworms — a family of mollusks — are able to cause such damage. A team of researchers has discovered that a population of symbiotic microbes, living in an overlooked sub-organ of the gut called the ‘typhlosole,’ have the ability to secrete the enzymes needed to digest lignin — the toughest part of wood.