Sex Is 'Kiss of Death' for Female Worms Because PATRIARCHY


I hope none of you weren’t planning on being reincarnated and coming back to life as a lady worm, because as it turns out, they have it a little shitty.

The presence of male sperm and seminal fluid causes female worms to shrivel and die after giving birth, Princeton University researchers reported this week in the journal Science. The demise of the female appears to benefit the male worm by removing her from the mating pool for other males.


The study found sperm triggers pathways that cause females to prematurely age, shrivel up and die. So sex literally sucks the life right out of them. Damn. Senior author Coleen Murphy, an associate professor of molecular biology at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, said the lives of female worms are cut by as much as a third.

The death of the female after she gives birth fits into a general framework of sperm competition that has been observed often in nature, said Murphy. “Males compete to have their genomes propagated, and this often occurs at the expense of the female.”

At the expense of the female. Oh where have we heard this before, ladies? The study found that female worms who had mated died within seven days, whereas those who opted for a quiet night at home to catch up on a backlog of Elementary episodes did not:

“The fact that sex essentially kills the mothers after they have produced the males’ progeny has never been reported before and is shocking to most people who hear this story for the first time, including researchers who study these worms,” Murphy said.

Shocking? No I don’t think so, Dr. Murphy. I, frankly, am not shocked. Seriously tho, the rest of the article from Science Daily is really cool and also features lots more discussions of worm sex. Because who isn’t interested in worm sex?

Image via Shutterstock

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