The Secret Life of Worms

I never knew that worms could be so intricate. You’d think that a worm would be so simple, just eating until its life is complete but surely I have been very surprised by how much there is to know about them. I never thought I would be so fond of something so small. When I see a whole bunch of little squiggly lines on a plate, I know that my worms are at the peak of their growth. You see, the plate is where the worms live and lines of bacteria drawn on the plate are their food source. When they run out of food, they lay all of their eggs. They instinctively do this in order to keep their species going-perfect example of survival of the fittest.

They are stubborn little animals I might add. I’m currently trying to perfect the technique of synchronization. Synchronization is the process of treating a set of worms with bleach and sodiumhydroxide. Bleach dissolves every stage of worm except for the embryos (as long as the embryos aren’t left in bleach for too long). The purpose of this is to obtain a synchronized population of worms, each worm being in the exact same developmental stage as those around it. However, despite treating the worms with bleach for long enough time periods for them to dissolve, I still find quite a few worms that have survived this.

On a good day, if I focus hard enough, I can see the slight movement of the worms with my naked eye. All the other days I spend my time looking at them through a microscope. Although completing my research project this summer is a great priority for me, my greatest goal is to see an embryo develop into a small, active worm. I haven’t been able to witness this yet. If I might be quite honest, this might be a larger task than I anticipated. This would require me to stare at a specific embryo for about ten hours and have a little bit of luck.

Clarissa Olivar Magallanes

Clarissa is a third year chemistry major. Her interest are all things math and space related. She will be working in Professor Joel Rothman's lab this summer.