Archive by Author | André Brown

Egg laying up close and personal

I hope you’ve been enjoying watching videos of crawling worms.  With some patience, you may have even already found some egg laying events.  If so, good work and thanks!

You may be wondering though, how are the eggs actually laid?  What does it look like?  You can’t make out much detail in the tracking videos where we need to be able to see the whole worm.  The eggs basically just look like little ovals that pop instantaneously out of the worm.  But with a higher powered microscope it’s possible to zoom in and make out details of the worm’s vulva and even to see the individual cells that make up the embryo in the egg!

Here’s a video made by my Medical Research Council colleague Robyn Branicky that shows very clearly just what laying a worm egg looks like.

Even the adult worm has fewer than 1000 cells, but it develops these quite complex structures that can perform an amazing variety of functions.  I find it beautiful.

Let the egg hunting begin!

Welcome Worm Watchers and curious citizens. I’m excited that the project has launched and I’m looking forward to seeing what you make of our beautiful worms. By taking part in this project you’re joining a community of thousands of scientists around the world who are fascinated by a tiny animal: Caenorhabditis elegans, or C. elegans for short. Some are working on how worms age, others on how they develop. My main current interest is how they behave (and misbehave when mutated).

In the coming weeks, I will use this blog to explain something of the biology of C. elegans, how it is used in very diverse fields, and introduce you to some of the worm enthusiasts who have made it one of the best studied animals on the planet. I also plan to introduce you to some of the mutants that you will find in the movies on the classification site. If you watch enough, you will find that many of them are memorable characters. The worm in this video has a mutation in a gene called dpy-20 (dpy stands for dumpy), which is among the cutest mutants:

This is also a good chance to see a worm laying an egg if you haven’t already. This one lays two eggs around 9:19 and then another one at 11:14. Can you find the others?