This Celibate Worm Is My Hero

If my gym teacher had given me more celibate heroes to look up to as a teenager, I might have saved myself a lot of heartache and oral contraceptives. Like, for instance, a tiny worm that hasn’t had sex in 18 million years.


Southern California Public Radio reports that sex a big energy suck (tell me about it):

But sex is also a lot of work. For one, you have to find a mate. You often have to spend time and resources competing with others to get the mate. And only half the population — the females — are capable of reproducing. It’s really inefficient.

“I mean, why bother with all those males and all that rigamarole?” says Benjamin Normark, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies the evolution of unusual genetic systems, mostly in tiny insects.

For. Sure. Dating is so much goddamn work. It’s incredible that we all don’t just lay down and die rather than subject ourselves to the process of finding a mate we’re not biologically related to. And why bother with “all those males” indeed? So that brings us to the Diploscapter pachys, which NPR calls abstinence’s most impressive poster child yet”—instead of procreating, the organisms asexually clone themselves, according to research published in Current Biology.

About the size of a poppy seed, this worm gave up dating 18 million years ago, and it’s “doing okay.” Yes, that’s what I say when my mom asks too. It’s not clear why or even how, but this worm managed to abandon the most complicated parts of the reproductive process, where chromosomes switch it up and errors find their way in. That’s the life!

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin



I’m at 3 months but it feels like 18 million years.