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Heart and ventilatory measures in crayfish during environmental disturbances and social interactions.

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Thomas Hunt Morgan School of Biological Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0225, USA.


Most animals assess the environment in which they live and alter their behavior according to various stimuli. When the animal does not make significant behavioral changes, as measured by bodily movements, the animal may be characterized as unresponsive to a given stimulus. This study demonstrates that when behavioral movements of crayfish cannot be observed, physiological measures of heart rate (HR) and ventilatory rate (VR) show dramatic changes in response to defined sensory stimuli. In the majority of cases, upon anticipation of a social interaction with another crayfish both HR and VR will increase. During an agonistic encounter between two crayfish, the level of HR and VR correlate with the intensity of the interaction. Such rapid responses in cardiac and respiratory systems to environmental disturbances and anticipation of a social interaction suggest an autonomic-like regulation associated with fear, flight or fight. Since behavioral observations do not allow an internal status to be readily assessed, we suggest that HR and VR may serve as a useful bioindex in crustaceans to their internal drive or possibly an awareness level to environmental cues.

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