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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 1998 Mar;69(2):126-35.

Sensitization of the Tritonia escape swim.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, 77225, USA.


When repeatedly elicited, the oscillatory escape swim of the marine mollusc Tritonia diomedea undergoes habituation of the number of cycles per swim. Previous work has shown that this habituation is accompanied by sensitization of another feature of the behavior: latency to swim onset. Here we focused on the behavioral features of sensitization itself. Test swims elicited 5 min after a strong sensitizing head stimulus differed in several ways from control swims: sensitized animals had shorter latencies for gill and rhinophore withdrawal, a shorter latency for swim onset, a lower threshold for swim initiation, and an increased number of cycles per swim. Sensitized animals did not, however, swim any faster (no change in cycle period). A separate experiment found that swim onset latency also sensitized when Tritonia came into contact with one of their natural predators, the seastar Pycnopodia helianthoides, demonstrating the ecological relevance of this form of nonassociative learning. These results define the set of behavioral changes to be explained by cellular studies of sensitization in Tritonia.

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