Scientists in Utah make transsexual worms

Sexual attraction is all in your brain. At least if you're a nematode.

 Ricardipus has a great image if you want to see a nematode picture.

I always thought worms were hermaphrodites (both male and female) but the story, as usual, turns out to be a bit more complex. Researchers at the University of Utah have found that worms have definite preferences for one sex or the other. And, if they kill off certain kinds of cells, the preference for one sex or another can change.
From the University of Utah:

"They look like girls, but act and think like boys," says Jamie White, a postdoctoral researcher and first author of the new study. "The [same-sex attraction] behavior is part of the nervous system."


"We cannot say what this means for human sexual orientation, but it raises the possibility that sexual preference is wired in the brain," Jorgensen says. "Humans are subject to evolutionary forces just like worms. It seems possible that if sexual orientation is genetically wired in worms, it would be in people too. Humans have free will, so the picture is more complicated in people."

It's an interesting story and you can find the rest of it here at


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This study reminds me of another recent one, carried out on mice. They found that disabling the vomeronasal organ in female mice -- whether physically or genetically -- made them act like males, sexually speaking. Climbing on top of other mice, thrusting their pelvises, etc. They concluded that the circuitry for male-specific sex behaviors must be present in the brains of both males and females, and then exposure to pheromones suppresses it in females. Very cool.

A link to the study...

Are humans the only species with "free will"? What's free will?

By Skeptic4u (not verified) on 05 Dec 2007 #permalink

I don't recall granting permission for the use of this photograph for this purpose. Please either contact me to arrange for an appropriate license, or remove it. Thank you.

By Richard Wintle (not verified) on 26 Oct 2012 #permalink

Not a problem. This was posted five years ago. The CC license may have been different then.