Experimental biology owes much to the discovery of the freshwater polyp Hydra over 300 years ago. Hydra was first described by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1702. In 1744 Abraham Trembley published a remarkable series of experiments on Hydra, the first to demonstrate regeneration, tissue transplantation and asexual reproduction in an animal. The photograph by Melanie Mikosch and Thomas Holstein shows a budding Hydra magnipapillata polyp.
Credit: Copyright Melanie Mikosch/Thomas Holstein, COS Heidelberg
The fresh-water polyp Hydra, a member of the over 600-million-year-old phylum Cnidaria, is famous for its virtually unlimited regenerative capability and hence a perfect model for molecular stem cell and regeneration research. This polyp, with its simple structure and radial symmetry, can help us understand how our body axes came to evolve. Scientists from Heidelberg and Vienna have brought this evidence to light through their research on the formation of new polyps in the Hydra through asexual reproduction.
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