a powerful sacrifice for the young

The worm milk It is very healthy and necessary for the correct growth of the young. No, with this phrase we have not gone crazy. Maybe a little imprecise, yes, but not crazy. It is true that worm’s milk does not exist as such. But there is a substance, called yolk, with which a specific species, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), feed their young.

But the most curious thing is not the existence of this liquid. It is that in order to produce it the parents they sacrifice literally squeezing his insides.

Finally, the result is excreted by its vulva. Therefore, we cannot strictly talk about breast-feed, but about something very similar, whose finding has just been described in a study published in Nature Communications.

The sex of worms

Most C. elegans worms are hermaphrodites, so they can self-fertilize, by fertilizing their eggs with their own sperm.

Most are self-fertilized, because they are hermaphrodites

But it does not happen as with other animals, such as humans, in which sperm continue to be produced. These hermaphroditic worms have a limited sperm pool, which does not take long to run out after selfing.

Therefore, once they lay their eggs, they will no longer be able to reproduce again and will enter a period of senescence, marked by the production of yema. Scientists had already observed the presence of this substance around their bodies, but they were not very clear what it was. Now, a team of researchers from the Institute for Healthy Aging at University College London has discovered that it is a kind of worm’s milk, with which the larvae just hatched from the egg are fed. But what exactly does this liquid consist of?

The curious discovery of worm’s milk

These scientists verified that the yolk secreted by the worms in senescence was found in the larval intestine, so they were feeding on it. In addition, those that ingested a greater amount grew faster. As for its origin, they saw that it was secreted through the worm vulva who laid the eggs.

Suicidal reproduction has also been documented in other animals, such as the Pacific salmon.

It was, therefore, like worm’s milk, since they secreted it to feed their young. But with an effort even greater than that of mammals, since it supposes a great sacrifice. And it is that with him a large number of unfertilized eggs, as well as remains of his own internal organs. Because, basically, what these animals do, which can no longer reproduce, is take advantage of nutrients and tissues that they will no longer use, and turn them into food for the next generations.

In short, it is a type of suicidal reproduction, something that has also been observed in other animals, such as the Pacific salmon.

And this is interesting, since with this fish it has been seen that if the genes involved in this suicide are silenced, their life expectancy can be significantly lengthened. C. elegans is an animal model widely used in the study of aging. So finding out that stopping this procedure could extend their life expectancy 10 times It has been a great revelation.

But there is one key difference that makes things very difficult. Human beings do not sacrifice to breastfeed their children. There is not one suicidal reproduction and, therefore, it does not seem that this new data can help to study aging in our species. However, although it may not seem like it, these scientists think that if we look beyond the worm milk yes we could have some clues. And it is that, as they explain in a statement from the UCL, “suicidal reproduction has evolved from more general mechanisms of aging and the causes of diseases related to aging are similar both in C. elegans and in other animals such as humans”.

Therefore, the key is to “understand the principles that govern the aging process of C. elegans and explain the causes of age-related diseases more generally.” They have not yet come to know these data for the main worms of history; but, with this new information, they are One step closer.

Other milks that are not milk

Worm’s milk isn’t the only milk that actually isn’t. There are also other examples, such as the cockroach milk.

It is a substance secreted by cockroaches of the species Diploptera punctata. It is also oviparous, so it reproduces by laying eggs. It does not nurse its young like a mammal would. But it does secret a very nutritious food, which they ingest from the time they hatch.

In fact, it is so nutritious that research has begun artificial synthesis of the crystals that compose it, for use in human food. Some already consider it one of the foods of the future. Or even a superfood. But the fact is that, if we take into account that superfoods. In reality, they do not exist, qualifying this substance from the spoonfuls as such does not serve as a guarantee of anything. Yes, perhaps in the future it will be part of our diet, but from there to saving our diet, it goes a long way. Let’s keep in mind that milk is not all that a secret parent uses to feed their children. And with nature being fascinating, of course.