When attacked, sea spiders can shed parts of their bodies to escape from the enemy. It seems that the Michelin man—who owes his name to his plump appearance, reminiscent of the famous tire brand’s mascot—is now able, as it were, to stick to his own tire and live when he’s bored. The animal is found in the cold seas of the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean, including the North Sea. It is found in the Netherlands – sporadically – around the Zeeland Delta.
Researchers publish their results On Animal Tuesday in the Scientific Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In it, they describe how they amputated the hind legs and hind body parts of 23 sea spiders. Most immature specimens are found to be able to regrow all or part of the lost parts. According to the researchers, this discovery may have significance in so-called regenerative medicine, which is used in humans, for example, to grow part of the liver.
Several animal species are known to regrow lost body parts, such as starfish, salamanders, and crabs. The best known is the lizard, which can flick its tail to confuse its attacker while escaping with a piece of the tail that continues to wriggle for some time.
The fact that this phenomenon also occurs in arthropods such as the Michelin man is a “special discovery,” according to biologist Peter H. van Bragt.
“This is a new piece in the complex and fascinating puzzle that nature is still for us,” van Praagt says. According to him, the special thing is that the sea spider can regenerate not only parts of the body, but also entire organs.
He made a small comment: ‘These are immature animals who still have to shed a few times in their lives. This means that it is still full of growth hormones. So it is not unreasonable that they are capable of it.
However, it remains a special find, according to van Praagt. He agrees that this discovery may have significance for human medicine. This discovery contributes to fundamental knowledge of biomolecules and organ development at the cellular level. But much follow-up research is still needed to identify all of the molecular steps in this process.
How important the German researchers’ findings may be for regenerative medicine is something the authors themselves have not written about in their publications.
“Total coffee specialist. Hardcore reader. Incurable music scholar. Web guru. Freelance troublemaker. Problem solver. Travel trailblazer.”