Coordination of behavioral hierarchies during environmental transitions in Caenorhabditis elegans

Worm. 2012 Jan;1(1):5-11. doi: 10.4161/worm.19148.


For animals inhabiting multiple environments, the ability to select appropriate behaviors is crucial as their adaptability is often context dependent. Caenorhabditis elegans uses distinct gaits to move on land and in water. Gait transitions can potentially coordinate behaviors associated with distinct environments. We investigated whether land and water differentially affect the behavioral repertoire of C. elegans. Swimming worms interrupted foraging, feeding, egg-laying and defecation. Exogenous dopamine induced bouts of these land-associated behaviors in water. Our finding that worms do not drink fluid while immersed may explain why higher drug doses are required in water than on land to elicit the same effects. C. elegans is a valid model to study behavioral hierarchies and how environmental pressures alter their balance.

Keywords: crawling; defecation rhythm; egg-laying; environmental transitions; foraging; omega bends; pharyngeal pumping; reversals; swimming.