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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 26;109 Suppl 1:10669-76. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201877109. Epub 2012 Jun 20.

Homology and homoplasy of swimming behaviors and neural circuits in the Nudipleura (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia).

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Department of Biology, New England College, Henniker, NH 03242, USA.


How neural circuit evolution relates to behavioral evolution is not well understood. Here the relationship between neural circuits and behavior is explored with respect to the swimming behaviors of the Nudipleura (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Opithobranchia). Nudipleura is a diverse monophyletic clade of sea slugs among which only a small percentage of species can swim. Swimming falls into a limited number of categories, the most prevalent of which are rhythmic left-right body flexions (LR) and rhythmic dorsal-ventral body flexions (DV). The phylogenetic distribution of these behaviors suggests a high degree of homoplasy. The central pattern generator (CPG) underlying DV swimming has been well characterized in Tritonia diomedea and in Pleurobranchaea californica. The CPG for LR swimming has been elucidated in Melibe leonina and Dendronotus iris, which are more closely related. The CPGs for the categorically distinct DV and LR swimming behaviors consist of nonoverlapping sets of homologous identified neurons, whereas the categorically similar behaviors share some homologous identified neurons, although the exact composition of neurons and synapses in the neural circuits differ. The roles played by homologous identified neurons in categorically distinct behaviors differ. However, homologous identified neurons also play different roles even in the swim CPGs of the two LR swimming species. Individual neurons can be multifunctional within a species. Some of those functions are shared across species, whereas others are not. The pattern of use and reuse of homologous neurons in various forms of swimming and other behaviors further demonstrates that the composition of neural circuits influences the evolution of behaviors.

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