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Sea slug is able to cast off its old body and grow a new one

Sea slug is able to cast off its old body and grow a new one

Sea slugs

Tired of your body? Looking for a change? Then imagine being a sacoglossan sea slug.

This snail-looking creature is able to get rid of its body — called autotomy — and grow a new one, complete with a heart and other internal organs. Meanwhile the cast-off body of the slug continues to respond to being touched for several days, sometimes months.

After shedding its body, the heads of young slug were still able to move around and even feed. It took days for the wound behind the head to close, about a week for a new heart to grow and three weeks for a completely new body to form.

The change didn’t work for older sacoglossan sea slugs. Their heads died about 10 days after separation from their body.

Why would the slugs have the ability to cast off their body? Scientists aren’t sure but think it may be a way to get rid of parasites — things that live inside of them.

Sacoglossan sea slugs are small, about a half-inch to an inch long. They eat algae, small plants that grow in water.

The slugs aren’t the only creatures with the ability to regrow. Some examples are lizards and salamanders that are able to break off their own tails to escape from predators. They can then regrow their tail, but it may take two months to form a new one. The African spiny mouse is able to shed its skin as a way to escape. Stone crabs can have their claws torn off and regrow new ones. And the orb-weaving spider is able to get rid of an injured leg.

— Brett French,


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