"I'm sure I have written here before about Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny worm - about the size of this letter i (without the dot) - that has become one of the most thoroughly studied animals in biology. Its habits are humble. It is nonpathogenic, noninfectious. It breeds prodigiously. It is transparent. It can be frozen and thawed alive. And heaven knows what else makes it the darling of the wormologists.
More. C. elegan's genome programs not 959 cells, but 1090. Of these, 131 are slated in advance to die, rather like the cells that die between the webbed digits of a human embryo to give us our useful fingers. Apoptosis, it's called. Programmed cell death. The 2002 Nobel Prize in physiology went to Sydney Brenner, Robert Horvitz and John Sulston for their work on programmed cell death in C. elegans. Tens of billions of cells in our own bodies die each day by apoptosis. We are dying all the time, in bits and pieces. Death is always with us, holding hands with life, hitchhiking in our genome. Whispering in our ear: "I'm here." Nibble, nibble. Waiting, waiting, for the full feast, the final meal.”