These acorn worms have a head for swimming | Science News

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How Bizarre

These acorn worms have a head for swimming

Putting off trunk development may make catching prey easier, researchers say

By
10:00am, January 3, 2017
acorn worm larvae

GETTING A HEADSTART  This marine acorn worm spends its larval phase as essentially a “swimming head” (left) before metamorphosing into a juvenile (middle), according to new genetic analyses. Adult worms (right) can grow up to about 40 centimeters.

Certain marine worms spend their larval phase as little more than a tiny, transparent “swimming head.” A new study explores the genes involved in that headfirst approach to life.

A mud flat in Morro Bay, Calif., is the only known place where this one species of acorn worm, Schizocardium californicum, is found. After digging up the creatures, Paul Gonzalez, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Stanford University, raised hordes of the larvae at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Because a larva and an adult

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