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Wonderful World of Worms

October 9, 2014

This blog post comes from Julia Olszewski, a fall intern in the Naturalist Center.  Julia is a Biology graduate student in the lab of William Kier at UNC Chapel Hill.


Sandworms (Nereis virens)
Photo by Julia Olszewski

The Kier lab in the Biology Department at UNC Chapel Hill is interested in a type of muscle found in sandworms, earthworms, leeches, and many other invertebrates. Earlier work on earthworm and leeches suggested that these animals have special arrangements of muscle proteins that allow their muscles to produce forces when very contracted and very stretched out. This is important for these animals because, as you know if you’ve ever played with an earthworm, they are capable of large changes in body length.  I did some preliminary work on the sandworms, trying to figure out if their muscles have the same abilities. By working on this, I started to become more interested in the theoretical models that try to connect the protein arrangements to the muscle’s abilities to produce forces at various lengths. Currently, I am working on my own model.

Sandworms in tank

Live Sandworms in Tank
Photo by Julia Olszewski

Sandworms (Nereis virens) are in the same group of animals as earthworms and leeches, but sandworms live in the ocean, buried under the sand. They have many legs that also have gills on them that allow them to breathe. They are common off the East Coast, especially up north. I bought my sandworms from a fishing bait supplier in Maine.

Earthworm Races and Sandworms on Display at this year's BugFest

Earthworm races and sandworms on display at this year’s BugFest.
Photo by Cindy Lincoln

For her intern project, Julia left the world of worms temporarily and created an activity about the recent discovery of a new mammal–the Olinguito!  Dr. Roland Kays, co-discoverer of the Olinguito is Director of the Biodiversity Lab at the Musuem.

Olinguito Activity

Olinguito Activity in the Naturalist Center
Photo by Julia Olszewski


4 Comments leave one →
  1. goldfire407 permalink
    October 9, 2014 4:09 pm

    Love this  

  2. Jill Bechtold permalink
    May 30, 2015 7:12 am


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