Speaking of science

This exercise is a part of Educator Guide: No Body Is No Problem for Detached Sea Slug Heads / View Guide

Directions for teachers:

Before this discussion, students should read the online Science News article “A sea slug’s detached head can crawl around and grow a whole new body” and answer the guide’s comprehension questions . A version of the story, “No body is no problem for detached sea slug heads,” appears in the April 10, 2021 issue of Science News.

Students should then discuss the following prompts with a partner, using outside resources as needed. Based on their comprehension of the article and their answers to the discussion prompts, student pairs will create a script for the Science News video “See a detached sea slug head regrow a new body.” The script should include a 10-second introduction to the video before it begins and 10-second conclusion after the video ends. Once the script is complete, students can record themselves reading the script and submit the audio file to you. The total length of the audio file should be around one minute.

Want to make it a virtual lesson? Post the online Science News article to your virtual classroom. Discuss the article and questions with your class on your virtual platform.

Introducing regeneration
Answer the following questions and use the information in your script’s introduction.

1. What is regeneration in animals? Can you think of an example of regeneration that happens in humans?

Regeneration is the process of recreating lost or damaged cells, tissues and organs. Some animals can regenerate full body parts. Some examples of body parts that humans can regenerate include skin, intestinal lining and liver.

2. The article focuses on a particular species of sea slug regeneration. What other animals regenerate? What is unique about this sea slug’s ability to regenerate?

The article mentions that planarian flatworms, ascidians and salamanders can also regenerate. Of the animals mentioned, only planarians, ascidians and the sea slugs can regenerate their whole bodies. The sea slug is unique among this group because it has a more complex body plan.

3. Explain what happens to matter and energy throughout the generation process. What do scientists think could possibly cause the boost of energy that allows this species of sea slug to undergo such impressive regeneration?

As you can see in the video, the sea slug’s body size increases throughout the regeneration process. This means that the slug is creating many new cells, and consequently body mass, out of the food it consumes. The ability to break down food and generate new cells requires energy. Scientists suspect that the ability of the sea slug to store chloroplasts inside its body could give it an advantage in regeneration. The chloroplasts could be used to convert solar energy to energy-rich molecules for regeneration, as chloroplasts normally convert sunlight to ATP and NADPH during photosynthesis.

Summarizing the importance
Answer the following questions and use the information in your script’s conclusion.

1. Why is the ability to regenerate important to the sea slug? What about the other animals you mentioned?

The sea slug’s ability to separate its head from its body and grow a new body may be how the slug rids itself of pesky parasites. Other animals regenerate after being wounded, nearly consumed by predators or after encountering other environmental hazards.

2. Why should people care about regeneration? How could studying regeneration benefit humans?

Student answers will vary. Determining the necessary factors for regenerative processes in animals could potentially inform medical treatments of injuries and diseases. Scientists may also be able to learn more about the aging process for humans through regeneration studies.

Creating your script
Create a one-minute script for the Science News video “See a detached sea slug head regrow a new body,” which shows the regeneration of a sea slug’s body. Using your answers from the “Introducing regeneration” questions above, write a 10-second introduction for your video script. Using your answers from the comprehension questions, create a 40-second script for the video that explains to the viewer what is happening in the video and why it is happening. Finally, using your answers from the “Summarizing the importance” section, write a 10-second conclusion to describe the importance of regeneration. Record yourself reading the entire script, including the introduction and conclusion, and submit the audio file to your teacher.