Nature is full of mysteries and strange animal behavior. Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, scientists find something new that amazes everyone with its peculiarity. According to a recent research, a new species of worm doesn’t really need a mating partner because it has the ability of fertilizing itself by injecting sperm into its own head.
The new species of worm is an aquatic creature scientifically called Macrostomum hystix. Scientists say it’s a species of aquatic flatworm capable of fertilizing itself because it’s a hermaphrodite, meaning it’s equipped with both female and male reproductive apparatus. Researchers say the tiny worm can produce both sperm and eggs which makes it capable of self-fertilization.
Although this species of flatworm can mate with a partner as well, when one isn’t available at the right time, the worm uses its penis, which is like a small hypodermic needle, and injects the sperm into its head. The sperm reaches its body and goes straight to the eggs, fertilizing them. Despite the strange mating behavior, the worm manages to produce viable offspring.
Steven Ramm, an evolutionary biologist at the Bielefeld University in Germany, said that although it seems like a strange mating behavior, it’s the best option the worm has when it can’t find a partner. Ramm explained that the worm doesn’t really have a choice, it’s either this or no reproduction at all.
Ramm detailed the weird mating behavior of this worm species in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
According to the researchers, they invented a new word to describe one’s ability for self-fertilization or self-pollination: selfing. They explain that selfing occurs in hermaphrodite species of animals and plants, and helps them prevent breeding with other unrelated species.
Prior to this discovery, experts though self-fertilization was not possible with hermaphrodite animals because the female and male reproductive organs are separated and isolated from each other. But it looks like this new species of worm can perform selfing with no trouble.
Researchers note that self-fertilization, or selfing, is not the ideal way of reproduction because the resulting offspring do not have a genetic variation and have a lower chance of survival. However, selfing helps the species with reproduction when mating partners are hard to find. Ramm said that although many species have the ability of self-fertilization, this species of worm is the first one that uses a hypodermic-like penis to do it.
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