Researchers know that animals which seem identical can actually belong to completely different species. But if it's worms used in laboratory testing, that could be important news in research.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, say they have used DNA analyses to discover that one of our most common segmented worms, Lumbriculus variegatus, is actually two types of worm. Along with some obvious issues in research it also affirms that the variety of species on the earth could be considerably larger than we thought. "We could be talking about a large number of species that have existed undiscovered because they resemble other known species," says Professor Christer Erséus.
'I hate being confused for somebody else' - Lumbriculus variegatus worm. Image: Biopix
The segmented worms that were studied by Erséus, doctoral student Daniel Gustavsson and their American colleague, are identical in appearance. From the very first time that they were described, they have been treated as the same species, and they are also found together in freshwater environments in North America, Sweden and the rest of Europe.
But when the researchers examined the worms using advanced methods for DNA analysis, they discovered that they were in fact two different species. Both species of worm differ in one of the examined genes by 17 percent, which is twice as much as the equivalent difference between humans and chimpanzees.
The research results, which are being published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, could have consequences; the worms are frequently used for laboratory testing around the world, to examine the effects of environmental toxins.
"Different species have different characteristics. If it emerged that these two species differ in terms of their tolerance towards certain toxins, then it could be difficult to make comparisons between different studies," says Christer Erséus.
And as this advanced DNA technology is tested increasingly within various animal groups, it could, according to Christer Erséus, mean that our perception of the earth's biodiversity may need to be revised. "There could be ten times as many species in total, compared with what we previously thought," he says.
The new species of worm has not yet been given a name, since researchers have not yet decided which of the two will keep the old name, Lumbriculus variegatus.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Vitriolic Abuse Of Anita Sarkeesian: Why The Games Industry Needs Her
- Sam Ting On AMS Results: Dark Matter Might Be One Seminar Away
- Why Natural Gas, Including Fracking, Is Better For The Environment Than Wind And Solar
- Factor In Space Bubbles Or The Terrorists Win
- Triclosan In Utero May Disrupt Growth Of Boys, But BPA Doesn't
- Mysterious 1808 Eruption - The Real Cause Of The Coldest Decade Of The Last 500 Years
- Scientists Are Not Trusted By Americans - Here's Why
- "The potential for a discovery is there Anon. It's in the high-energy data and the antiproton data..."
- "It's amazing to see the PR machine that Ting has put together at work. Not only do we have to wait..."
- ":) Actually amphetamine salts were not sustainable as an ADHD solution for me. They actually did..."
- "Hi Hontas. This caught my eye: That said, it may be that there simply is no strong signal of inflation..."
- "1.) Fundamentally one can never prove any theory. That's what makes a theory different from..."
- Stop taking patients in cardiac arrest to hospital, says expert
- Dying brain cells cue new brain cells to grow in songbird
- Being sheepish about climate adaptation
- Asteroid named for University of Utah makes public debut
- Does size matter? MRI imaging sheds light on athletes most at risk for severe knee injury
Books By Writers Here