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Mon, Feb 01

Shape-shifting worm

Their shapes are so different that they look like five different species. But genetic studies have shown single species of nematode worm, newly discovered inside figs, can develop into five distinct forms. It is a striking example of physical divergence without genetic divergence.

“We were shocked,” says team member Erik Ragsdale of the University of Indiana. “It is remarkable and unusual.”

Young Pristionchus nematodes hitch a ride to new figs on the wasps that fertilise the fruit. If you look inside the fig soon after the wasps arrive, only one small form of the nematode can be found. It has a simple tube-like mouth for feeding on microbes.

Read more from New Scientist.