Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:31, 3:31 and 5:49 a.m.

Scent of a Worm

Scientists find the key to solving a global economic scourge, in... worm sweat.

Splash it on--the scent that drives worms wild!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Most nematode worms are hermaphroditic-- females who can fertilize their own eggs. That lets them reproduce like crazy, and can spell disaster for humans. Parasitic nematodes cause everything from disease to billions of dollars in crop losses.

Now researchers at Caltech may have found a way to fight the blight. "Worm sweat"!

That is, when nematodes are on the make, they secrete a pheromone designed to attract the few "true males" among them. It's a combination of three related chemicals, called ascarosides. Like Chanel Number 5, the mixture drives male worms wild--and worm populations surge.

But during times of worm hardship-like overcrowding and food shortage--the chemicals build up. Far from attracting MORE males, it drives them away--and sends worm larvae into hibernation.

It's the first evidence of a chemical link between reproduction and population control, shedding light on worms' communication and survival strategy.

The discovery could help fight parasitic nematodes--

And lend a biological clue as to why MEN resist women wearing too much perfume. Apparently it just screams "times of worm hardship." Turn off!