Bacterial Brownbaggers

Lunchtime! Whatcha got – tuna salad or PB&J?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Remember the good old days when mom packed your lunchbox for school? Wish someone would lovingly pack your lunches, every day, for the rest of your life? For a tiny sea worm called Paracatenula, that’s exactly what happens!

But this worm is a VERY peculiar creature – it has no mouth and no gut! How does it survive?

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany wondered. They used a powerful microscope to study the bizarre worm.

What did they learn?

Paracatenula have bacteria living INSIDE them! These bacteria produce energy using the chemicals in the surrounding water, like iron and sulfur. Like tiny caterers, they divide the food into care packages, supplying the worm’s essential nutrients. Lunch-ables are served!

We have a lot to learn from this unique relationship! Biologists hope this study will help us understand how other organisms evolve together in nature.

You have every right to envy this sea worm – it has its own personal chef! But you can still CALL your mom. If she forgets the Hostess cupcakes!