The findings have important implications for biologists and geneticists using C. elegans for their research. Until recently scientists have largely limited their observations of the worm to crawling on solids, but this discovery suggests that it is just as important to consider a range of environments when studying the behaviour of the worm.
Lead researcher Dr Netta Cohen, Reader in the School of Computing, says: "Our discovery suggests that it's important to study the function of the worm's nervous system in a range of environments, where the mode of operation of the nervous system and the specific role of individual genes may be more apparent."
C. elegans, a tiny free-living worm, was the very first animal species to be completely genetically sequenced and operates with many of the same genes that are found in human beings. It is used by scientists as a model system to gain a fundamental understanding of the basic principles of life.
C. elegans is so simple it doesn't have a brain, only a minimal nervous system of 302 nerve cells (as opposed to the 100 billion or so in the human brain). This 1mm long worm exhibits a wide range of behaviour, including foraging, learning, memory and even social behaviour. Scientists are fascinated with this tiny worm, anticipating that this will be the first animal species to be completely understood.
In its natural habitat, C. elegans can encounter a range of environments where its motion can be quite varied - from muddy water and moist surfaces in dry ground to the centre of rotten fruit, where it will find a plentiful supply of food. The worm's swimming and crawling observed in different environments look so distinct, there's a long-held consensus that these are separate gaits – as with horses, where galloping and trotting are entirely different motions.
Using a combination of experimental laboratory work and computer simulations, the research team has shown that swimming, crawling - and everything in between - represents one locomotion gait that is generated and controlled with a single underlying nervous system mechanism.
Dr Cohen says: "We raised the question of how such a minimal nervous system can exhibit different behaviours and instantly switch between them. Our finding is the first unified description of a whole range of behaviours and should hopefully make the modeling of this animal more accessible."
Clare Elsley | EurekAlert!
Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)
CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy