Tiny worms ‘hear’ without an eardrum, surprising scientists
Darwin concluded they didn't after his son played a bassoon and they didn't wriggle away. New research says otherwise.
“Can worms hear?” is an age-old question, one Darwin attempted to answer in the 1800s by having his son serenade earthworms with a bassoon and seeing if they wriggled away. Darwin’s answer: no. But new research suggests otherwise.
While other complex senses, such as vision, are widespread in the animal kingdom, so far, hearing has been found only in vertebrates and some arthropods. Almost all hearing animals rely on an organ that vibrates when sound waves hit it, firing neurons associated with processing sound. In humans and most other vertebrates, that’s our ear, comprising a delicate eardrum and inner ear.
But C. elegans, a tiny worm that’s ubiquitous in biology research, doesn’t have a specialized hearing organ. Instead, new experiments have