Each May and September, a tiny, spawning marine worm draws researchers from many institutions to the MBL. Armed with shovels and sieves, the scientists dig the worm up from coastal sediments and fertilize its eggs back in the lab. Over several intense weeks they study the worm’s development and evolution, looking for ancient precursors to the human genetic blueprint. One member of this seasonal research group at MBL, Sébastien Darras from CNRS in France, describes the Woods Hole experience and what this marine model system (Saccoglossus kowalevskii) is teaching them. The group recently published a new paper on the worm’s embryonic axis of development in PLoS Biology.
By Sébastien Darras
The meeting with Chris
As is often the case in science, the genesis of new ideas often happens by chance. This project began following a “Meet the speaker” discussion with Chris Lowe at my previous institution (IBDM, Marseille, France) where I was part of a group working on ascidian embryology. I was impressed by the beautiful things he had just presented that could be done with an animal I didn’t really know much about, the hemichordate Saccoglossus kowalevskii. I kept asking “Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you try this?”; and he finally responded “Why don’t you do it yourself?” Read more …
Photo: Waquoit Bay in Falmouth, Mass., spawning grounds for the acorn worm, Saccoglossus kowalevskii.