Mar 9, 2021

These sea slugs sever their own heads and regenerate brand-new bodies

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

You’ve heard of animals that can lose and then regenerate a tail or limb. But scientists reporting in the journal Current Biology on March 8 have now discovered two species of sacoglossan sea slug that can do even better, shedding and then regenerating a whole new body complete with the heart and other internal organs. The researchers also suggest that the slugs may use the photosynthetic ability of chloroplasts they incorporate from the algae in their diet to survive long enough for regeneration.

“We were surprised to see the head moving just after autotomy,” said Sayaka Mitoh of Nara Women’s University in Japan. “We thought that it would die soon without a heart and other important organs, but we were surprised again to find that it regenerated the whole body.”

The discovery was a matter of pure serendipity. Mitoh is a PhD candidate in the lab of Yoichi Yusa. The Yusa lab raises sea slugs from eggs to study their life history traits. One day, Mitoh saw something unexpected: a sacoglossan individual moving around without its body. They even witnessed one individual doing this twice.

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