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Curr Biol. 2011 Aug 9;21(15):1326-30. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.06.063. Epub 2011 Jul 28.

The C. elegans touch response facilitates escape from predacious fungi.

Author information

1
Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.

Abstract

Predator-prey interactions are vital determinants in the natural selection of behavioral traits. Gentle touch to the anterior half of the body of Caenorhabditis elegans elicits an escape response in which the animal quickly reverses and suppresses exploratory head movements [1, 2]. Here, we investigate the ecological significance of the touch response in predator-prey interactions between C. elegans and predacious fungi that catch nematodes using constricting hyphal rings. We show that the constricting rings of Drechslerella doedycoides catch early larval stages with a diameter similar to the trap opening. There is a delay between the ring entry and ring closure, which allows the animal to withdraw from the trap before being caught. Mutants that fail to suppress head movements in response to touch are caught more efficiently than the wild-type. This demonstrates that the coordination of motor programs allows C. elegans to smoothly retract from a fungal noose and evade capture. Our results suggest that selective pressures imposed by predacious fungi have shaped the evolution of C. elegans escape behavior.

PMID:
21802299
PMCID:
PMC3266163
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2011.06.063
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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