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The neurobiological consequence of predating or grazing
Date:1/17/2013

their shape and position each of the 20 neurons in Pristionchus pacificus could be correlated to an exact equivalent in Caenorhabditis elegans" explains the scientist. "This is all the more astonishing as the evolutionary distance between the two worm species is over 200 million years and they differ markedly in feeding behaviour and in the anatomy of their mouth parts." While C. elegans feeds exclusively on bacteria, P. pacificus is able to switch its behaviour to prey on other worms if bacterial food gets scarce.

These differences are reflected in the number and position of neuronal synapses. While in C. elegans only 9 out of 20 nerve cells are motor neurons, which primarily activate muscle cells, the number is up to 19 in P. pacificus; only one neuron functions exclusively as an interneuron, establishing connections between nerve cells. "This hints at substantial differences in information flow", states Ralf Sommer. Clearly, the regulation of movements is much more complex in P. pacificus a finding which correlates perfectly with the predatory feeding behaviour of the worm.

By means of partly newly developed analytical methods the scientists in Tuebingen also compared the relevance of individual neurons and synapses for the entire network. It became obvious that two neurons in the anterior part of the P. pacificus pharynx have significantly gained in importance: They are the motor neurons regulating the muscle cells that control the movement of mouth parts, most prominently the movement of teeth which are not found in C. elegans. "The mouth parts are particularly active during a predatory attack, but not when feeding on bacteria" explains Sommer. In C. elegans, these two neurons function exclusively as interneurons. There are marked differences in the posterior part of the pharynx as well. This is where C. elegans has a specialized muscular "grinder" for crushing bacte
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Contact: Ralf J. Sommer
ralf.sommer@tuebingen.mpg.de
49-707-160-1371
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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