Adapt to survive, Proliferate: Study in roundworms provides evidence for Darwin's hypothesis

Washington: Researchers have produced some of the first evidence for the famed naturalist Charles Darwin's hypothesis that domestication and natural selection -- the process by which organisms better adapted to their surroundings survive and create more offspring -- work in the same ways. The research, conducted by an international team, including those from Northwestern University in the US, found that natural selection acts on the same genes that control the sense of smell in wild roundworms as also found previously in domesticated worms in the lab. The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, was carried out using a combination of laboratory experiments, computational genomic analysis, and field work. The researchers showed that natural selection acted on signal-sensing receptors rather than parts further down the genetic process. The study was performed on the model organism C.elegans -- a one-millimetre-long roundworm typically found in gardens and compost piles, feeding particularly on rotten fruits and bacteria. The researchers said that the roundworm relies so much on its sense of smell to assess food levels and competition that getting its olfaction right could mean the difference between its life and death. If they smell enough food in their environment, the researchers said, they will stay, grow, and reproduce. However, if they sensed food shortage or too much competition from other worms, they may go on a risk prone journey to find a less populated place with more food. This process, the researchers called "dauer", delayed growth and reproduction in the worms.

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