The development of novel nanomaterials has raised great interest in efforts to evaluate their effect on biological systems, ranging from single cells to whole animals. In particular, there exists an open question regarding whether nanoparticles per se can elicit biological responses, which could interfere with the phenomena they are intended to measure. Here it is reported that challenging the small cnidaria Hydra vulgaris in vivo with rod-shaped semiconductor nanoparticles, also known as quantum rods (QRs), results in an unexpected tentacle-writhing behavior, which is Ca(2+) dependent and relies on the presence of tentacle neurons. Due to the absence of surface functionalization of the QRs with specific ligands, and considering that spherical nanoparticles with same composition as the QRs fail to induce any in vivo behavior on the same experimental model, it is suggested that unique shape-tunable electrical properties of the QRs may account for the neuronal stimulation. This model system may represent a widely applicable tool for screening neuronal response to nanoparticles in vivo.