Coastal Worms Recently Evolved to Grow Back Head After Amputation

The discovery answers lots of questions about how animals evolve to have regenerative abilities.

Biologists have recently discovered that four species of marine ribbon worms have evolved to gain the ability to regrow a head after amputation. The discovery busts the myth that appendage regrowth is an ancient trait.

There are some lucky animals in our ecosystem that have the ability to regrow appendages after amputation. Salamanders, spiders and some sea stars are among the animals with the superhero-like skill.

Recent evolution surprises biologists

A study of 35 species of marine ribbon worms by an international team of biologistsfound that the four of the species very recently evolved to have the ability to regenerate an entire head, including a brain.

"This means that when we compare animal groups we cannot assume that similarities in their ability to regenerate are old and reflect shared ancestry," said Alexandra Bely, associate professor of biology at UMD and one of the study's authors.

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