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WORCESTER, Mass. — In his Nobel Prize lecture in 2006, Craig Mello played a clip from a horror movie of sorts, starring a tiny worm. Filmed through a microscope, the worm wiggled toward a mysterious black ring and ominously slid through it.

“Watch this,” Mello said, pointing toward the screen. Suddenly, the ring snapped shut around the worm’s tail. The ring, Mello explained, is a lasso thrown by a fungus, readying to catch and devour its prey.

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