Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Parasitic 'warrior worms' discovered in snails; Scientists see possible biomedical applications

Date:
September 20, 2010
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a caste of genetically identical "warrior worms" -- members of a parasitic fluke species that invades the California horn snail.

Large reproductive trematode flatworm surrounded by soldiers from its colony.
Credit: Ryan Hechinger, Ecological & Evolutionary Parasitology, MSI, UCSB

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have discovered a caste of genetically identical "warrior worms" -- members of a parasitic fluke species that invades the California horn snail.

Related Articles


The findings are reported in the early online version of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"We have discovered flatworms in colonies with vicious, killer morphs defending the colony," said Armand M. Kuris, professor of zoology, in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. "These flukes have a strongly developed social organization, much like some insects, mammals and birds." The tiny warrior worms are only a couple of millimeters in length, yet they are powerful thanks to relatively large mouths.

These worms form colonies in snails. Reproductive worms and soldier worms cooperate to grow and defend their colony within the snail. These two types of individuals look and behave differently, explained first author Ryan F. Hechinger, assistant research biologist with UCSB's Marine Science Institute. The warrior worms attack other invasive parasites trying to invade the snail.

Kuris calls the worms parasitic "body snatchers," because they castrate the snail, making it unable to reproduce. The snail, which is only an inch and a half long, houses thousands of worms. A mature colony of this type of worm weighs 25 percent of the weight of the host snail.

The worms are produced through asexual reproduction and their relationships are even more dramatic than those among honeybees. For example, worker bees and queen bees are related as sisters through sexual reproduction. "The fluke castes described by our research team are genetically identical," said Hechinger. "They are clones."

Many other species of flukes probably have colonies of clones with castes, said Kuris. He expects international research to expand in this direction, now that this example has been discovered.

These colonies also act like an immune system, defending the body of the snail from other fluke infections, said second author Alan C. Wood, a marine science lab manager at UCSB. The soldiers behave like white blood cells; they attack other unrelated flukes, biting and killing them.

These flukes with soldier castes may also have a biomedical application. They might be used in the biological control of major human parasitic diseases such as blood flukes. There are 200 million cases of blood fluke diseases worldwide, said Kuris. The soldier worms might eliminate infections from forming in the snail hosts, preventing infections in humans. Liver flukes might also be controlled.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. F. Hechinger, A. C. Wood, A. M. Kuris. Social organization in a flatworm: trematode parasites form soldier and reproductive castes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1753

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Parasitic 'warrior worms' discovered in snails; Scientists see possible biomedical applications." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100916091759.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2010, September 20). Parasitic 'warrior worms' discovered in snails; Scientists see possible biomedical applications. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100916091759.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Parasitic 'warrior worms' discovered in snails; Scientists see possible biomedical applications." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100916091759.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

Raw: Lioness Has Rare Five-Cub Litter

AP (Mar. 27, 2015) — A lioness in Pakistan has given birth to five cubs, twice the usual size of a litter. Queen gave birth to two other cubs just nine months ago. (March 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Jockey Motion Tracking Reveals Racing Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) — Using motion tracking technology, researchers from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are trying to establish an optimum horse riding style to train junior jockeys, as well as enhance safety, health and well-being of both racehorses and jockeys. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bear Cubs Tumble for the Media

Bear Cubs Tumble for the Media

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) — Two Andean bear cubs are unveiled at the U.S. National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Alicia Powell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

Botswana Talks to End Illegal Wildlife Trade

AFP (Mar. 25, 2015) — Experts are gathering in Botswana to try to end the illegal wildlife trade that is decimating populations of elephants, rhinos and other threatened species. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins