Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A worm with five faces

04.01.2016

Max Planck scientists discover new roundworm species on Réunion

For eight years, a research team headed by Ralf Sommer and Matthias Herrmann travel to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Developmental Biology have now discovered a new nematode species on the island.


Two of five different morphs of Pristionchus borbonicus, heads magnified as inserts.

© MPI f. Devolopmental Biology


Figs of Ficus mauritiana can be found growing on runners on the ground.

© MPI f. Devolopmental Biology

The discovered nematodes live inside of fig plants and at first sight they look totally different. Much to their surprise, the scientists found that all the worms belong to a single species, which can develop five different mouth forms. The nematodes are genetically identical, however their food source decides on the mouth form. They are an extreme example of evolutionary divergence within a species.

The discovered roundworms, so-called nematodes, live inside of wild figs and hitch hike on tiny pollinating fig wasps to reach new fig flowers. Ralf Sommer’s team called the new species Pristionchus borbonicus after the Île Bourbon, the old name of Réunion Island until 1848.

Much to their surprise, the scientists found that the tiny worms had five distinct mouth forms, differing so much from each other in their appearance that they were initially considered to belong to separate species. Conventional morphology, that is the study of the form and structure of organisms, examines organisms under the microscope and describes them as accurately as possible.

Only by sequencing the nematodes’ genomes, the Max Planck scientists managed to assign the five distinct mouth forms to a single species, namely the recently described Pristionchus borbonicus.

This is an extreme example of evolutionary divergence within one species and of variation in shape and form in the context of genetic identity. Interestingly, the researchers found similar roundworms of the same type in figs from Vietnam and South Africa. It is evident that the association with figs is a widespread phenomenon.

“The different mouth forms of Pristionchus borbonicus, that we have found now, are specialized for the preferred intake of bacteria, yeasts or other roundworms. So, obviously they occupy different ecological niches within the fig”, explains Ralf Sommer, Director of the Department for Evolutionary Biology. “With this team of specialists the species can exploit a large food spectrum and efficiently buffer fluctuations in the availability of a certain resource by changing the proportion of mouth forms.”

Until now Sommer and his team knew that the Pristionchus species, with which they have already been working for a long time, live on beetles and develop two different mouth forms, depending on the food supply and on the environment.

Thus, Pristionchus develops either a short wide mouth or a long narrow one. The wide-mouthed variant, which has a single, characteristic tooth, is suitable for carrying out predatory attacks. The narrow version, in contrast, is mainly used for grazing on bacterial food sources.

Thus, the tiny fig fruit has once again proven its reputation as a highly complex, co-evolved ecosystem with the fig wasp as the transmitter that reliably colonizes each generation of figs with a large number of different bacteria, yeasts, other microbes and roundworms. To understand the role that Pristionchus borbonicus plays in this intricate system is an exciting new subject of research for the MPI scientists. They already plan their next journey to Réunion to find new types of figs and nematodes.


Contact

Prof. Dr. Ralf J. Sommer
Department Evolutionary Biology

Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen
Phone: +49 7071 601-371

Email: ralf.sommer@tuebingen.mpg.de


Nadja Winter
Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen
Phone: +49 7071 601-444

Fax: +49 7071 601-446

Email: presse-eb@tuebingen.mpg.de


Original publication
Susoy et al.

Large-scale diversification without genetic isolation in nematode symbionts of figs

Science Advances 2016;2:e1501031 (1 January, 2016)

Prof. Dr. Ralf J. Sommer | Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen
Further information:
https://www.mpg.de/9815335/pristionchus-borbonicus?filter_order=L&research_topic=

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

nachricht CWRU researchers find a chemical solution to shrink digital data storage
22.06.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>