Worm

Worm Joke Causes Science Twitter Flame War Over Accusations of Sexism and Racism

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Science Photo Library / Alamy
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Science Photo Library / Alamy

It was supposed to be a fun activity. On July 18, Ellen Weatherford, co-host of the Just The Zoo of Us podcast, tweeted out a simple question:“What is the most overhyped animal?” The post made the rounds of the loose community of researchers, zookeepers, and wilderness enthusiasts that makes up Science Twitter, a community whose passion often manifests as friendly smack-talk. Answers flowed in: blue whales, lions, penguins. A grand time was had by all. 

Until a day later, when Michael Eisen, editor of eLife—a well-regarded open access scientific journal for the biomedical and life sciences—made a joke about a humble roundworm, thereby cracking open the seventh seal and ushering forth… wormageddon. 

The target of Eisen’s playful ire? A transparent, 1 millimeter-long roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans, which has been the subject of extensive

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