Distinct thermal migration behaviors in response to different thermal gradients in Caenorhabditis elegans

Genes Brain Behav. 2010 Feb;9(1):120-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2009.00549.x. Epub 2009 Oct 28.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans exhibits a complex behavior called thermotaxis in response to temperature. This behavior is defined as a form of associative learning, in which temperature pairs with the presence or absence of food. Different interpretations have been drawn from the diverse results obtained by several groups, mainly because of the application of different methodologies for the analysis of thermotaxis. To clarify the discrepancies in behavioral observations and subsequent interpretations by different laboratories, we attempted to systematize several parameters to observe thermotaxis behavior as originally defined by Hedgecock and Russell in 1975. In this study, we show clearly how C. elegans can show a conditioned migration toward colder or warmer areas on a thermal gradient, given certain criteria necessary for the observation of thermotaxis. We thus propose to distinguish thermotaxis from other temperature-related behaviors, such as the warm avoidance response displayed at temperature gradients of 1 degrees C/cm and steeper.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • Cold Temperature
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Locomotion*
  • Temperature*