- A unique companion for a unique person
- Great gift for science enthusiasts!
- The first multicellular organism to have its genome sequenced
All About C. Elegans (Caenorhabditis Elegans)
FACTS: C. elegans is no ordinary worm: it’s a small, free-living, non-parasitic, multicellular, unsegmented, eukaryotic, bilaterally-symmetrical, vermiform nematode that is one of the most studied organisms on the planet!
Because its cell structure is non-varying from worm to worm, the development of each of its 959 somatic cells has been observed (plus 72 more in the adult male); every one of its 302 neurons has been traced. Its entire 100 million base-pair genome has been sequenced. And because human beings share more than a third of the C. elegans genome, we’ve learned much about ourselves by getting to know it so well.
In the wild, C. elegans survives in soil – but in laboratory dishes, it feasts on a diet of freshly harvested E. coli bacteria (at least until researchers start probing for secrets…)
C. elegans grows to adulthood in about 3 days, and normally lives about 2-3 weeks – though when food is scarce, certain dauer larvae can survive without eating for months. (And in fact, C. elegans can be frozen and stored for years before being thawed and resuscitated!)
C. elegans is also very fertile. Individual hermaphroditic adults can produce over 300 offspring, and even more progeny after mating with a male. All of which allows for the efficient study of multiple generations of creatures – and with considerably less risk of researcher-subject bonding than can occur with soft, fluffy, doe-eyed, playful, warm, friendly, trusting, white … mice.
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DESCRIPTION In 1963, Sydney Brenner introduced the notion that C. elegans was a model organism for studying developmental biology. Since then, it’s been widely used in labs as a popular research tool to study gene expression and cell activity.
NAME The genus name derives from Greek roots “caeno”, “rhabditis”, and “elegant”, meaning common rod-like organism with elegant movement.
ACTUAL SIZE 1 millimeter long, or 250 times smaller than a string of spaghetti!
WHERE IT LIVES Caenorhabditis elegans are microscopic roundworms that can be found all over the world. They live in the soil and in rotting vegetation, eating bacteria and fungi. They’re non-pathogenic, which means they don’t cause harm to humans or animals.
HISTORY First described in 1900 by Emile Maupas, a French librarian turned zoologist.
FASCINATING FACTS It has two sexes, hermaphrodites and males. Hermaphrodites can self-fertilize or mate with males, but they cannot reproduce by fertilizing each other. They can produce 300 to 350 offspring with self-fertilization, and even more if it mates with males.