American scientists who sent worms on the International Space Station had a big surprise when they returned: one of the worms had a second head.
It is a rare mutation: the worm , having lost its tail, saw a second head push in the place of its former tail. However, it is impossible to know whether this is really a space effect, or just an exceptional mutation that can take place on Earth.
The experiment was conducted by American scientists from Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA. The worms spent five weeks in microgravity aboard the ISS, the same station that hosted the astronaut Thomas Pesquet for six months .
The results of the experiment were published in the journal Regeneration , where scientists say that “in addition to 18 years of experience in maintaining a colony of D. japonica (the worm in question) that includes more than 15,000 control worms in the past five years alone, Tufts researchers had never observed the spontaneous appearance of a double head. ”
More surprisingly, scientists have noticed that some of these worms have split into two clones: a phenomenon known as “scissiparity”. The report also explains that on their return, the worms remained partially paralyzed for several hours, and spent less time in the dark than the worms on Earth.
The effects of space on genetics are already known. Thomas Pesquet, after six months aboard the ISS, aged faster than normal, lost muscle mass and took a few centimeters, which he immediately lost on his return to Earth.