Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Bizarre Mating Habits of Flatworms

01.07.2015

Failing to find a mating partner is a dent to the reproductive prospects of any animal, but in the flatworm species Macrostomum hystrix it might involve a real headache.

Zoologists from the Universities of Basel and Bielefeld have discovered the extraordinary lengths to which this animal is willing to go in order to reproduce – including apparently injecting sperm directly into their own heads. The academic journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has published their findings.


MicrMacrostomum hystrix showing the anterior eyes (1) in the head, followed by the paired testes (2), paired ovaries (3), developing eggs (4), the female genitalia containing three ma

(Image: Lukas Schärer)

The absence of a mate usually spells disaster for sexually reproducing animals. However, some simultaneous hermaphrodites – animals who have both male and female sex organs at the same time – have developed an escape route for this scenario: self-fertilization. It is an imperfect solution, as any offspring produced by so-called “selfing” are bound to be inbred, but still better than not reproducing at all.

In previous studies, it had been established that the flatworm species Macrostomum hystrix is capable of switching to just such selfing behavior when isolated from mating partners, a behavior found in many but not all simultaneous hermaphrodites. In their new study, Dr. Lukas Schärer from the University of Basel and his team now show the bizarre, yet remarkable mechanisms Macrostomum hystrix has developed that make this possible.

A shot to the head

The studied flatworms are highly transparent and their insides can therefore be easily observed under the microscope. By doing so, the zoologists discovered that under selfing conditions, when hermaphroditic individuals had to use their own sperm to fertilize their own eggs, the worms had very few sperm in their tail region.

This is in stark contrast to worms kept in a group, which contained most sperm in their tails, close to where fertilization actually occurs. Instead, isolated worms had more sperm in their head region.

This implies a rather strange insemination route: by using its needle-like male copulatory organ, an isolated worm can self-inject sperm into its own anterior body, from where the sperm then moves through the body towards the eggs.

“As far as we know, this is the first described example of hypodermic self-injection of sperm into the head. To us this sounds traumatic, but to these flatworms it may be their best bet if they cannot find a mate but still want to reproduce” explains Dr. Steven Ramm, first-author of the study.

Such a convoluted route is likely needed because, although hermaphrodites, there are no internal connections between the worm’s male and female reproductive systems.

Original source

Ramm SA, Schlatter A, Poirier M, Schärer L (2015)
Hypodermic Self-Insemination as a Reproductive Assurance Strategy
Proceedings of the Royal Society B | doi:10.1098/rspb.2015.0660

Further information

Lukas Schärer, University of Basel, Zoological Institute, Tel. +41 61 267 03 66, email: lukas.scharer@unibas.ch

Steven A. Ramm, Evolutionary Biology, Bielefeld University, Tel. +49 521 106 2719, email: steven.ramm@uni-bielefeld.de

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.unibas.ch/en/News-Events/News/Uni-Research/The-Bizarre-Mating-Habits...

Olivia Poisson | Universität Basel

Further reports about: Biology Evolutionary Macrostomum animals eggs flatworm mechanisms offspring species

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>