(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have demonstrated that sea anemones exercise hard before moving on to a sedentary lifestyle.
The larvae of Nematostella anemones are mobile, but gradually they move to an attached way of life. It was not possible to consider how this happens before because of their very fast movements – the microscope simply did not allow them to be recorded.
The authors of the new study have improved the method of optical coherence microscopy, which allowed them to quantify the volumetric changes in the tissues and body cavity of the developing larva.
Biologists have found that anemone larvae are divided into two groups: some develop quickly, the second – slowly. The more active the larvae were, the longer their development took.
Movement is necessary for them to achieve a form that will be most beneficial after the transition to a sedentary lifestyle. But it looks like they can’t use their hydroskeleton to move and evolve at the same time.
To increase their size, sea anemones puff up by drawing in water from their surroundings. Then, by contracting different types of muscles, they can adjust their shape. This local expansion caused by pressure helps stretch the tissues, causing the animal to become more elongated.
The results of the work will be useful in engineering sciences: many systems use hydraulic mechanisms that turn the pressure and flow of water into mechanical work.
Among the authors were not only biologists, but also mathematicians who created a model for quantifying the role of hydraulic pressure in controlling changes in the shape of a vessel.
In addition, a better understanding of how anemone larvae develop will allow us to understand the evolution of ancient metazoans that appeared in a similar environment.
Echoes from that time still affect us today: tubular, stretchy structures form the basis of many of our organs. Studying the mechanisms applicable to Nematostella will help to better understand the role of hydraulics in the development and functioning of the human body.
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