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!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy