Hydra, small jelly-like, freshwater organisms, some might consider them insignificant. But, shocking recent revelations in the world of science might change your opinion.
Hydras are known for their ability to regenerate their bodies, and there’ve been countless studies on this matter. A similar study was initiated to dig into the reason behind this regenerative ability, but, it took a different route.
The research was done by Suyash Naik, a UG student at IISER, Pune, who disclosed the scientific mechanism behind hydra’s ability to perform a somersault. Yes, you heard it right it’s ‘somersault’.
Who knows, perhaps, hydra’s have their own Olympic games underwater.
The details of the study
A hydra can grow back again when sliced into two. Some researchers claim this ability of regeneration to be synonymous with immortality. Suyash Naik, an undergraduate student at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, showed interest to dig more into the subject.
“My initial goal was to study what physical changes occur across the hydra body during regeneration,” Naik said. He also noticed that hydra tissue is stiffer in its head region as compared to the toe region.
This unexpected revelation changed the course of his research. Following the course of action, Naik calculated the stiffness of hydra tissue using a material property known as Young’s modulus.
Young’s modulus is a numerical constant that describes the elastic properties of a body or an object. In simple terms, it determines how far an X amount of force can stretch something.
The size of hydra is smaller than the width of a human finger and this became a matter of concern for researchers. They used an Atomic force microscope (AFM) to fix this.
With the help of AFM, Naik found out that the Young’s Modulus at the hydra-head is three times greater than at its base. It indicates a narrow path-like structure from its head to toe. The stiffness from head to toe was decreasing.
The researchers gave this a thought and reflected on the function of this stark gradient. “We thought of a system of springs, with two parts of different stiffness connected like a slinky,” Naik said.
According to scientists, this might be a possible cause of the hydra’s somersaulting activity. In which, hydra’s stiff ‘shoulder’ stores energy when it bends, before releasing the energy to the ground.
After the discovery, the researchers just didn’t stop there. They wanted reassurance. To do that, they hindered the stiffness of the hydra’s shoulder. As a result, the hydra was unable to perform its magical somersault.
Researching and studying the scientific mechanism behind the subtle movements of these organisms is very important. Not only it helps science, but, it sheds light on how these small animals have a world of their own.
Human Beings thought that they discovered somersaults, but, some small immortal creatures living underwater have been doing this from the beginning of time.
Sudhakaran Prabhakaran, a biologist at Cambridge University was excited after reading the study. He said, “This is a fascinating interdisciplinary collaboration between biology, physics, and computation experts coming together to explain a fundamental aspect of a living organism.”