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Worm blobs behave like both fluids and solids


They show several phase properties at once, according to researchers:

A blob can hold itself together like a solid: When released to fall a short distance on a hard surface, it plops instead of splashing, Bhamla, a biophysicist at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, said. And video from his lab also revealed a worm blob version of melting. In a container of water where a hot spot develops, the blob starts fraying and “melts” away as some blackworms (Lumbriculus variegatus) disentangle themselves and swim off, while others collectively move to a spot with a lower temperature. Adding chilly water, however, will cause the blob to solidify again as the animals rejoin the ball.Susan Milius, “How worm blobs behave like a liquid and a solid” at Science News

Now that mechanobiology is becoming a bigger topic, the worms’ ability to easily behave according to two states may help us understand life forms better.

Abstract: S4-5 AYDIN, YO; CULVER, J; TENNENBAUM, M; GOLDMAN, DI; BHAMLA, MS*; Georgia Institute of Technology; Dynamics of a worm blob Organisms across all length scales (from cells to humans) cluster and forms large social groups for evolutionary advantages. In some cases, aggregates exhibit and enable new functionalities: floating on water (fire ants), nest-building (bees) and mobbing predators (birds). In this talk, we describe new insight into aggregation behavior in worms, where hundreds of thousands of worms entangle together to form a large, wet, and squishy ‘blob’. These worm blobs have emergent viscoelastic properties of the collective – they can flow through tubes, while bouncing off hard substrates; they can ‘sense’ each other and merge; they can rapidly unknot and dissipate into individual units within a few seconds; and lastly the worm blob as a whole can break symmetry and move across substrates in response to external gradients More.

See also: 2018 Saw Mechanobiology, Including Biophysics, come to the fore

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