There are some images that just stick with you. They might be beautiful, fascinating, or terrifying. For example, I’ll never forget when my former labmates told me to Google pictures of a teratoma. Seriously, don’t do it…wait, you just did, didn’t you? Unless you are a C. elegans worm, you won’t find today’s images terrifying…instead, you are likely to be utterly fascinated.
C. elegans are small 1mm-long roundworms that are used extensively in biology research. When the head of one of these worms is touched, its immediate response is to quickly back away from the touch. A recent paper describes how a fungus may have shaped the evolution of this behavior. Maguire and colleagues found that a predacious fungus called D. doedycoides capture larval stage worms by forming rings that constrict the worm passes through. There is a delay between when the fungus senses a worm passing through its ring and when it constricts to trap the worm. During this delay, the worm’s touch response can trigger the worm to quickly back out of the trap. However, there are some worms with mutations in its touch response—these worms are caught more efficiently by the fungus. Images above are electron micrographs of larval stage worms caught by the constricting rings of the fungus (left) and close-up images of the fungus’ rings before (top) and after (bottom) they are constricted.
BONUS!! Check out the authors’ video abstract, which includes movies of this predator-prey interaction, here.
Maguire, S., Clark, C., Nunnari, J., Pirri, J., & Alkema, M. (2011). The C. elegans Touch Response Facilitates Escape from Predacious Fungi Current Biology, 21 (15), 1326-1330 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.06.063
Copyright ©2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.