Self-Decapitating Slugs

Self-decapitating sea slugs that drop their heads and regrow an entire new body on the head.

Scientists discover that the self-decapitating species of sacoglossan sea slug, regrows another body on the detached head.

These seas slugs start eating straight after decapitation, regrow a heart a week later and they complete the regeneration process in three weeks.

The team explains:

“In contrast, the shed body did not regenerate the head. These sacoglossans can incorporate chloroplasts from algal food into their cells to utilise for photosynthesis and we propose that this unique characteristic may facilitate survival after autotomy and subsequent regeneration.”

Self-Decapitating SlugThe disembodied head of a sacoglossan sea slug.  Image credit Sayaka Mitoh

Sayaka Mitoh of Nara Women’s University in Japan, said:

“We were surprised to see the head moving just after autotomy. We thought that it would die soon without a heart and other important organs, but we were surprised again to find that it regenerated the whole body.”

“As the shed body is often active for months, we may be able to study the mechanism and functions of kleptoplasty using living organs, tissues, or even cells. Such studies are almost completely lacking, as most studies on kleptoplasty in sacoglossans are done either at the genetic or individual levels.”

Self-Decapitating Slugs drop their Heads and regrowFrom left to right: Day 0, day 7, day 14 and day 22. (Mitoh & Yusa, Curr. Biol., 2021)

source Eurekalert