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Worm Sex

Worms that used to reproduce asexually are now having sex. Why should we care? These are worms that were contaminated by radioactivity from the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, and they can reproduce more efficiently this way. Ukrainian scientists think they've changed their sexual behavior in order to increase their chances of survival. This shows that at least some forms of life can adapt to radioactivity, so a nuclear war might wipe out mankind, but life would still survive.

Gennady Polikarpov and Victoria Tsytsugina compared the behavior of 3 species of worms that live in a lake near Chernobyl with worms living in a lake approx. 20 miles away. The lakes had similar temperatures and chemical composition, but the worms in the Chernobyl lake had received 20 times as much radiation as those in the other lake.

They found that two species in the Chernobyl lake had switched from asexual to sexual reproduction. One species increased its rate of sexual reproduction by 50%. Sexual reproduction allows natural selection to promote genes that offer better protection from radiation damage. Polikarpov says, "The resistance of populations as a whole will be increased."

Worms have learned something we need to know: There's no such thing as Doomsday.

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