This New Sea Slug Can Cut Off Its Own Head & Still Live For Months (Photos, Video)
1 month ago
- Top Stories
Two species of sea slugs can pop off their heads and regrow their entire bodies from the noggin down, scientists in Japan recently discovered. This incredible feat of regeneration can be achieved in just a couple of weeks and is absolutely mind-blowing.
Most cases of animal regeneration — replacing damaged or lost body parts with an identical replacement — occur when arms, legs or tails are lost to predators and must be regrown. But these sea slugs, which belong to a group called sacoglossans, can take it to the next level by regrowing an entirely new body from just their heads, which they seem to be able to detach from their original bodies on purpose.
If that wasn't strange enough, the slugs' heads can survive autonomously for weeks thanks in part to their unusual ability to photosynthesize like plants, which they hijack from the algae they eat. And if that's still not enough in the bizarro realm, the original decapitated body can also go on living for days or even months without their heads.
"We agree with that that is the most extreme shape of autonomy and regeneration in nature," lead creator Sayaka Mitoh, a doctoral scholar at Nara Women's University in Japan, told Live Science.
Further investigations revealed that any other species of sacoglossan sea slug (Elysia atroviridis) additionally undergoes this sort of regeneration and that positive individuals can pull off the trick greater than once.
How to grow a logo-new body
Mitoh first stumbled across this weird conduct with the aid of twist of fate whilst she noticed the indifferent head of a sacoglossan sea slug (Elysia cf. Marginata) circling its indifferent frame in a tank on the Yusa Lab at Nara Women's University in 2018.
"One day, I found an character of Elysia cf. Marginata with its head and its frame separated," Mitoh said. "I thought the negative slug would die soon."
But rather than dying, the wound at the back of the slug's head quickly healed and become changed with the aid of the beginnings of a completely new frame.
"After some days, the head started regenerating the frame and I ought to see [the] beating of the heart. It changed into fantastic," Mitoh instructed Live Science. "I become without a doubt satisfied and relieved once I located it could regenerate the frame."
After around three weeks, the slug had finished its frame-swapping stunt and changed the eighty% of its body it had at first misplaced, inclusive of all the crucial organs it were capable of stay with out for so long, in step with Mitoh.
The slug's logo-new body turned into a really perfect reproduction of the unique, which researchers located changed into also doing moderately well on it's very own.
"The [original] body maintains to move and stay for days to months," Mitoh said. "You can see the coronary heart beating" inside them, she introduced. However, the decapitated bodies did now not appear like able to growing new heads themselves.
Exactly how the slugs regenerate their our bodies from the head down continues to be unknown, but the researchers suspect stem cells — unique undifferentiated cells which have the ability to be became any form of cellular — play an vital position.
"We assume that some multipotent [stem] cells can be worried inside the regeneration process," Mitoh stated. In the destiny, she and her group wish to "similarly discover the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon on the tissue and cell tiers," she added.
A younger slug's sport
The scientists are also now not sure how the ocean slugs sever their heads from their bodies within the first region or why they would need to, specifically when there is no seen cause to discard their old our bodies and begin once more.
A leading theory is that the slugs do it to put off inner parasites that have infested their vintage our bodies. However, it may also simply be a way to survive assaults from predators by way of sacrificing their our bodies and escaping as self sustaining heads and could have been prompted with the aid of something else inside the lab, Mitoh stated.
However, the researchers located that handiest the younger slugs are able to autonomy and regeneration. When older slugs had their heads eliminated, the heads survived for up to 10 days however they in no way started eating and did not start to regenerate before loss of life.
"We think that very old ones gain little benefit from autotomy, as they in all likelihood can't reproduce," Mitoh stated.
Although one man or woman within the look at underwent autonomy and regeneration twice, the researchers suspect that this is probably the restrict and that after a certain stage of their lives the slugs probably lose the ability altogether.
You are what you consume
The regeneration process calls for a lot of energy, that's hard for an self reliant head to accumulate, Mitoh said.
However, the sacoglossans have a secret weapon: These specific slugs are able to kleptoplasty, or the capability to scouse borrow chloroplasts — the parts of a mobile that allow vegetation to convert daylight into electricity thru photosynthesis — from the algae they consume and use them in their very own tissues. This permits the slugs to photosynthesize, which offers them enough strength to start the regeneration system.
"They depend on photosynthesis simply after autotomy and whilst meals is scarce," Mitoh said. "But the stolen chloroplasts closing only for several days for those sea slug species, and so they possibly want to eat to complete regeneration."
Mitoh and her colleagues will search for different species of sacoglossan that can regenerate in this way.
"Sacoglossan sea slugs are widely recognized for their capacity for kleptoplasty, and we now learned that they have got some other extremely good capacity," Mitoh stated. "We are very inquisitive about these small animals."