A trio of biologists from Stanford University in the US grew acorn worms (Schizocardium californicum) from larvae to adult (pictured above).
They found that in the worms, activity of certain genes that would lead to the development of a trunk are delayed. So, during the larval stage, the worms are basically swimming heads.
As they continue to grow, the acorn worms eventually undergo a metamorphosis to their adult body plan. At this point, the genes that regulate the development of the trunk activate and the worms begin to develop the long body found in adults, which eventually grows to about 40 centimetres over the span of several years.
The work was published in Current Biology.
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.