In the last post, I wrote about how C. elegans usually comes in the form of a self-fertilising hermaphrodite and that this is useful for studying behavioural genetics. But, another important part of genetics is making crosses so that different genes can be exchanged between strains to study how they affect an organism. Fortunately, there are also male C. elegans that are happy to exchange their genetic material with the hermaphrodites and although the hermaphrodites don’t strictly need the attention, the they don’t seem to mind.
Maureen Barr and Rene Garcia provide a technical, but not all together dry, description of the essentials in their WormBook chapter:
“In a stereotyped mating event, the male initially responds to hermaphrodite contact by placing his tail flush on her body; he begins moving backwards along her body until he reaches her head or tail, where he then turns via a sharp ventral coil. He continues backing until his tail contacts the vulva; at that region of the hermaphrodite, he stops moving, inserts his spicules, and ejaculates into the hermaphrodite uterus.”
This video from Steve Cook and Scott Emmons pretty much says (and shows!) it all: