Worms commit suicide for the development of the colony. In particular, in this way they reduce competition for food, according to a study by scientists from the Institute for Healthy Aging, published in the journal Aging Cell.
Previously, scientists believed that aging is a mechanism that appeared during evolution, which allows us to increase the availability of food for young individuals in the colony. However, recent studies have shown that for these findings, they do not apply to most species of living things that reduce the population through natural selection.
In a new work, researchers monitored the behavior of C. elegans worms, which are nematode worms that share part of genes with humans and have short life spans. Therefore, they often become a model for experiments aimed at slowing down the aging of cells.
Scientists already know that mutations in the genes of nematodes of this species can significantly increase their lifespan by partially “turning off” the aging mechanism.
In a new study, biologists compiled a computer simulation of the life of a colony of C. elegans, whose subsistence was limited. The analysis showed that nematodes also have a mechanism for reducing life expectancy – in other words, death for the sake of the interests of the colony. According to the simulation, a reduction in the life span of individual worms increases the reproductive capacity of the colony.
“Our findings are consistent with the old theory that aging is beneficial in terms of increasing food availability for younger individuals. But adaptive death can develop only under certain conditions when populations of closely related individuals do not mix with non-relatives. Our study showed that adaptive death has nothing to do with people, but it seems to happen often with microorganisms living in colonies”.
David James, lead author of the study