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Movement without muscles
Date:5/12/2011

This release is available in German.

All animals move cheetahs faster, snails more slowly. Muscle contractions are the basis of all movements, at least according to general opinion. But there are animal groups, that don't have any muscles at all, as they branched off from the evolutionary path before muscle cells evolved. However these animal groups, for instance the sea sponges, are not immovable. Sponges are able to contract without muscles. These contractions were already known to sponge divers in ancient Greece, as Aristotele described in 350 BC.

A group of scientists headed by associate professor Dr. Michael Nickel of Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) is looking into movement without muscles. The scientists from the Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology are mostly interested in the evolutionary aspect, especially in the question: Which evolutionary forerunners did the muscle cells derive from?

In a new study which will be published in the Journal of Experimental Biology (Band 214, doi: 10.1242/jeb.049148) on 15 May 2011, the evolutionary biologists are giving new answers to the question: Which cells in the sponges are contracting? In this paper the researchers are relying on the 3dimensional (3D) images, which they created with synchrotron radiation-based X-ray microtomography. Thus, the Jena scientists in co-operation with the Helmholtz-Zentrum Gesthacht at the Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron Hamburg could compare and visualise the 3D structure of contracted and expanded sponges.

"A key feature of our approach is the use of 3D data for measuring the volume and surface of our sponges," says Nickel. "Although the 3D volumetric analysis is widely known and used in the technical sciences, it has rarely been used in zoology in spite of its enormous information potential." Thus, Nickel's team was able t
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Contact: Axel Burchardt
presse@uni-jena.de
49-364-193-1031
Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena
Source:Eurekalert  

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