May 27, 2008

I Don't Want to Grow Up

Since 1899 when these creatures were first discovered, the y-larvae has been a mystery. No one knew their adult form, or where they came from.

Scientists knew they were a crustacean, but not much more. So scientists collected a sample of more than 40 species of y-larvae (y for mystery, cue theme music). Next, they subjected this sample of y-larvae to a maturation hormone to see what they'd turn into. And guess what they found. No, not politicians:

The creatures metamorphosized into a juvenile form, dubbed "ypsigons," unexpectedly shedding their exoskeletons to become wriggling, eyeless, limbless creatures that resemble parasitic crustaceans . . . The fact that ypsigons are vastly different and far simpler than y-larvae might help explain why the adult versions of these creatures have escaped detection for so long. These are so simple compared with y-larvae that they even lack digestive tracts and nervous systems.
The working theory is that these ypsigons are essential components to any healthy reef, since they are found in every ocean from pole to pole. Though they have yet to figure out the adult form, knowing the juvenile form is a great start.

I can only imagine that y-larvae are loathe to grow up. You can't have much in the way of aspirations when you know that you'll become a wiggling, limbless, eyeless creature sans nervous and digestive systems. I see a Pixar movie in the making here: the tale of a y-larvae who wants to stay a kid.

Thanks for the article, Ida.

Photo source: Hoeg et al, BMC Biology via

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