Here’s a good one. New research reveals that worms communicate using a dictionary comprising about 150 different chemical compounds. Scientists say the roundworms send messages to one another using this distinctly wormy language.
Photo credit: National Human Genome Research Institute
The full meaning of these wormy messages hasn’t yet been cracked by scientists, but scientists say they have learned enough to know that worm “social signaling” to other worms means the typical C. Elegans roundworm is “significantly more highly evolved than previously suspected.” Mating is the first studied use of C. Elegans messaging.
The worms communicate by exuding small molecules, ascarosides. In articulating messages, the worms can even combine the basic 150 molecules into new combinations other worms understand, particularly for mating and other social purposes.
The scientists focused their research on the C. Elegans — that is, Caenorhabditis Elegans, the roundworm used in experiments the world over.
Turns out these little guys not only communicate, but they exhibit a wide range of social behaviors, too. The new research provides a mechanism for how these social behaviors are communicated.
C. Elegans, by the way, is the worm Dr. Cynthia Kenyon’s life extension lab is experimenting with at University of California at San Francisco.