Stories tagged worm

Seriously, what more do you need to know? Well, OK, other than the fact that the worm isn't really three feet long, and it doesn't really spit, either. But, still -- awesome!


The early bird: and its nemesis: the early worm.
The early bird: and its nemesis: the early worm.Courtesy Vicki & Chuck Rogers- Best Friends
Careful observation has once again made fools of us. I always knew this would happen, but had previously assumed that it would have something to do with someone finally noticing the things I do when I think no one is watching. (And why shouldn’t I take sandwiches from the trash?)

No, in this particular case, science has shown that common knowledge isn’t always right, and that early birds do not necessarily get the worm.

“The worm” here is a metaphor for life.

Everyone knows, of course, that the early bird gets the worm. That is to say, whoever gets up first earns the right to finish off the donuts, and which ever animal is born before its siblings will be stronger and better able to compete for food (and what have you) that its good for nothing slowpoke brothers and sisters. These “late birds” lose the head start at life, and have a more difficult time catching up, if they ever do.

Recently, however, biologists at the University of North Carolina have found this little bit of wisdom to be less than entirely wise. This is not to say that early-hatching birds have lost any sort of advantage--they continue to steal worms from their younger siblings. No, early hatchers remain true to the saying, but eggs that are laid first have been found to have a significantly decreased chance of hatching at all. It seems that after laying her first egg, bird mothers aren’t all that concerned yet with settling down and incubating the little sucker. Therefore, its chances of survival take quite a dip.

What’s more, it may be that the reasons for this have to do with the fact that early (hatching) birds do tend to get the worms: if mother birds were to incubate their first egg before the rest were laid, that early hatching bird would out compete its siblings, and probably decrease the total bird output.

It’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? I compared it to my own experiences as a lifelong late bird--I was born last, am rarely early in general, and I kind of hate worms (they taste like slimy dirt. Seriously)--and it made me a little wistful for similar behavior in humans. If only my mother would have spent more time foraging and flying around in my older brother’s incubating days, things probably would have gone much better for me. There would have been more presents for me at holidays, I could have grown into a more robust physique (like the brother did), and I would have gotten the top bunk. I would have gotten the worm, if you will. If only...


Squish it down, roll it out, and it becomes a worm: Photo NOAA.
Squish it down, roll it out, and it becomes a worm: Photo NOAA.

When it’s related to jellyfish. In 1851 scientists discovered an odd marine worm called Buddenbrockia. Unlike other worms, it has no internal organs. According to Oxford zoologist Peter Holland, “It has no mouth, no gut, no brain and no nerve cord. It doesn’t have a left or right side or a top or bottom – we can’t even tell which end is the front!”

No one knew where exactly if fit on the evolutionary tree. Until now. Holland studied the creatures DNA and found it is actually a close relative of jellyfish, sea anemones and coral.

Before you shrug your shoulders and say “so what?,” realize that Buddenbrockia is a parasite, and comes from a whole family of parasites. It devastates salmon fisheries, and has been hard to eradicate, since the fish farmers didn’t know what they were up against. Now we do.

Holland also notes that this research was made possible by the Human Genome Project, which decoded all the DNA in the human body. Not that human genes have anything much to do with jellyfish and worms. Rather, the Human Genome Project developed new, powerful ways to quickly study DNA. Those methods are now available to other researchers who could never have developed them on their own. In science, we call this the Trickle Down Effect.


As I watched the praying mantis crawling on my hand, I noticed something brownish coming out of its bottom. At first I thought it was feces, but then it started wriggling around vigorously. Was it a tapeworm, or some unknown species of worm?

Praying mantis: This isn't the mantis with the hairworm. But any excuse to post a photo of a praying mantis is a good excuse to do it.
Praying mantis: This isn't the mantis with the hairworm. But any excuse to post a photo of a praying mantis is a good excuse to do it.Courtesy CatDancing

We brought the worm home in a bag and searched on the internet. It was a hairworm, a parasite that feeds on the insides of insects and brainwashes the insects into jumping into the water, where it completes its lifecycle. That makes sense because the praying mantis jumped off my hand into a wading pool just before I brought it onto land and the hairworm started coming out.
We've only found examples of hairworms coming out of grasshoppers and rarely emerging from damselfies/dragonflies. Has a hairworm ever before been observed coming out of a praying mantis? I found it on Oct. 4, 2006 at Kyodo no Mori in Fuchu-shi in Tokyo when my 4th grade class from ASIJ was on a field trip.
My name is Elsa and I am nine years old. I want to be either an entemologist or a herpetologist when I grow up.