Epigenetics in Caenorhabditis elegans:
It has been found (Bethany A. Buckley A Nuclear Argonaute Promotes Multigenerational Epigenetic Inheritance and Germline Immortality NATURE vol. 489 no. 7416 September 20, 2012 page 447) that in Caenorhabditis elegans epigenetic information was transmitted up to five generations.  I think we knew that.  At least it is obvious that failure to marry kin for five generations entails a fall in fertility.  And whatever it could be other than an epigenetic mechanism I cannot imagine. 

Caenorhabditis elegans is a remarkable little beast.  It is a chordate, as are we.  In fact my impression is that it is the only chordate that is not a vertebrate.  It has a notochord but does not segment it into vertebrae.  Were it not for this creature our phylum would be vertebrates, not chordates.  It also does not have a head.  Rather primitive I should say.  These little wormy things can be raised in tanks, so they would be better for some genetic studies than even fruit flies except that they usually reproduce asexually.  One just divides, like an ameba.  But they do have sexual reproduction as well.  I once ran across an article that suggested that this asexual reproduction could be suppressed.  If so, then certain genetic and epigenetic studies would be easier.  If such a technique was used for this paper, I was not able to find it mentioned.

I cannot mention the beasties without remarking that there was a time when almost all the Caenorhabditis elegans used in scientific papers were collected in Old Tampa Bay.  There used to be a topless bar close by and I often wondered whether if I haunted the place I might find scientists taking their leisure.  That would be networking, wouldn’t it?  Quite a valid reason for going, don’t you think?

In the paper they also found that if the mechanism for changing and transmitting the epigenetic signals they were studying was tampered with in the right way (finding an appropriate mutant gene) that over generations the Caenorhabditis elegans began to have problems with making gametes and after five generations – get this – they became infertile.  Now I cannot make a clear link in my mind between that observation and the one that interests me, but I strongly suspect it exists.

In field trials of beagles, where a bait has been dragged along a specified route and the dogs compete at following it at speed, if an owner so much as purses the lips or gestures with a thumb the dog is disqualified.  The dogs are that alert and the competition is that keen.  On the other hand in basset field trials it is considered quite acceptable to pick the dog up and put it down pointing in the right direction; it is considered improper to push.

Well the white coat boys seem to be on the scent.  I do try to help, but so far to no visible avail.

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