Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

To swim or to crawl: For the worm it's a no brainer

02.04.2009
A study at the University of Leeds has shown, for the first time, that C. elegans worms crawl and swim using the same gait, overturning the widely accepted belief that these two behaviours are completely different.

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!
Further information:
http://www.leeds.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>