Nematode worm sex

From New Scientist:

‘Worm porn’ video shows details of nematode sex

Some might call it worm porn, but a video showing a male worm preparing to mate with a hermaphrodite could equally be described as balletic in its graceful movement.

Allyson Whittaker and Paul Sternberg of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, study the nervous control of mating behaviour in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

Their art-house-esque video, filmed through a microscope, shows the male gliding around the hermaphrodite, which does not actively co-operate in mating.


The male presses the front side of his tail against the hermaphrodite, while he backs along and searches for the vulva. The tail, controlled by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, embraces the hermaphrodite, curling round in its quest for the vulva.

On finding it, the male inserts copulatory structures called spicules and mating commences. There are six steps involved in worm mating behaviour.

The researchers say their video provides a better understanding of the molecular and neuro-muscular pathways that regulate male tail posture during mating.

Males more considerate than imagined — at least, in nematode worms: here.

Laboratory nematodes: here.

‘On the origin of nematodes‘ — A phylogenetic tree of the world’s most numerous group of animals: here.

Steinernema pui sp. n. (Rhabditida, Steinernematidae), a new entomopathogenic nematode from Yunnan, China: here.

Nematode communities of Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island, maritime Antarctica: here.

Nematode Worm C. Elegans Muscles Improve During Spaceflight: here.

Sex life of worm hides a protein with links to ALS: here.

Worms live longer with thioflavin T: Dye used in Alzheimer’s research promotes longevity in lab nematodes: here. And here.

The world’s deepest-dwelling multicellular organisms have just been identified, according to a paper in the latest issue of Nature. If you were to dig down about 2.2 miles, you might encounter Halicephalobus mephisto (“Mephisto”) and its other nematode relatives: here.

Scientists have long prized the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model for studying the biology of multicellular organisms. The millimeter-long worms are easy to grow in the lab and manipulate genetically, and have only around 1,000 cells, making them a powerful system for probing intricacies of development, behavior and metabolism. Now, a team at Princeton’s Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics has produced new resources for C. elegans research: a comprehensive view of which genes are active in each of the four major tissues of adult worms, as well as a tool for predicting gene activity across 76 more specific cell types. The team, led by co-senior authors Professor of Molecular Biology Coleen Murphy and Professor of Computer Science Olga Troyanskaya, reported their results in an August 10 article in the journal PLOS Genetics: here.

Numerous studies show that the legacy of hardship can be passed from one generation to the next. The good news is that resilience can cross generations too. That’s the takeaway from a Duke University study of C. elegans worms and their offspring. The researchers found that offspring of mothers who ate fewer calories during pregnancy were better able to bounce back from starvation themselves. The researchers also showed how a mother worm transmits her hard-won coping abilities to the next generation: via changes in insulin signaling that are transferred via her eggs to her offspring, and which help them make a better recovery from famine: here.

5 thoughts on “Nematode worm sex

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