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No. 35: Sep-Oct 1984

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Caenorhabditis Elegans

The creature with this formidable name is only about a millimeter long and develops from egg to adult in about 3.5 days, at which time it possesses about 1,000 somatic cells. C. elegans is a roundworm, but a famous one. Its growth has been followed on a cell-bycell basis from egg to adult. The history of each cell is known from birth to death. The fact that C.elegans is nicely transparent helps the cell-watcher.

Here are some of the interesting things to be seen as cells proliferate, live, and die. First, C. elegans is bilaterally symmetrical, but the pattern of cell generation on the right differs from that on the left. Nevertheless, the creature ends up symmetrical, making one wonder where the directions for symmetry come from. Some cells are transients, dying when their jobs are done. A few doomed cells are generated only because they produce sister cells that are needed in the final animal. Such a programmed loss of cells may be a method of modifying an organism during evolution. John Sulston, one of the researchers, says, "Within the lineage you can see the fossil of its past."

(Marx, Jean L.; "Caenorhabditis Elegans: Getting to Know You," Science, 225:40, 1984.)

Comment. Sulston's statement reminds one of "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," which we thought had been discredited long ago.

From Science Frontiers #35, SEP-OCT 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987