Mystery behind worms' 'wriggling' revealed
A new study has helped uncover how worms wriggle and move even though they do not have brain to communicate with the body.
Dr. Paolo Paoletti from University of Liverpool alongside his colleague at Harvard, Professor L Mahadevan, has developed a mathematical model for earthworms and insect larvae which challenges the traditional view of how these soft bodied animals get around.
The researchers hypothesised that there was a far greater role for the body's mechanical properties and the local nerves which react to the surface that the animal is travelling across.
Dr Paoletti said that when humans running were analysed, there was clearly local control over movements as by the time nerve signals travelled from the foot to the brain and back again, one would have taken three steps, and would otherwise probably have fallen over.
Much the same was seen in the soft bodied animals. Rather than generating a constant wave of contraction and expansion, their movement was controlled and influenced by the contours of the surface they were moving across.
Dr Paoletti and Professor Mahadevan created a mathematical and computational theory to understand this and then tested these theories under different circumstances and conditions and using imagined worms of different masses. They now believe that this new model could be of use in robotics.
(Posted on 20-08-2014)