A University of Portsmouth researcher believes that the ultimate enemy of seaside piers and sea defences could hold the key to producing clean, green biofuels.

Dr Simon Cragg, part of a nationwide team involved in a £27m project looking for fossil fuel alternatives, is investigating the digestive processes of gribbles, the ant-size sea-dwelling crustaceans which can make a meal of anything wood.

Commonly known as marine borers, the creatures’ digestive juices convert timber to sugar.

Dr Cragg said that if the process can be isolated and reproduced in the laboratory, it may make it easier and more commercially viable to derive fuel from biomass.

“Waste wood, straw, corncob husks, and sugar cane all contain cellulose that, if broken down, as gribbles do in their guts, can be fermented into alcohol and used as fuel,” he said.