Journal Article Spontaneous behaviors and wall-curvature lead to apparent wall preference in planarian

Akiyama, Yoshitaro  ,  Agata, Kiyokazu  ,  Inoue, Takeshi

10 ( 11 ) 2015-11-05 , Public Library of Science
The planarian Dugesia japonica tends to stay near the walls of its breeding containers and experimental dishes in the laboratory, a phenomenon called "wall preference". This behavior is thought to be important for environmental adaptation, such as hiding by planarians in nature. However, the mechanisms regulating wall-preference behavior are not well understood, since this behavior occurs in the absence of any particular stimulation. Here we show the mechanisms of wall-preference behavior. Surprisingly, planarian wall-preference behavior was also shown even by the head alone and by headless planarians. These results indicate that planarian "wall-preference" behavior only appears to be a "preference" behavior, and is actually an outcome of spontaneous behaviors, rather than of brain function. We found that in the absence of environmental cues planarians moved basically straight ahead until they reached a wall, and that after reaching a wall, they changed their direction of movement to one tangential to the wall, suggesting that this spontaneous behavior may play a critical role in the wall preference.When we tested another spontaneous behavior, the wigwag movement of the planarian head, using computer simulation with various wigwag angles and wigwag intervals, large wigwag angle and short wigwag interval reduced wall-preference behavior. This indicated that wigwag movement may determine the probability of staying near the wall or leaving the wall. Furthermore, in accord with this simulation, when we tested planarian wall-preference behavior using several assay fields with different curvature of the wall, we found that concavity and sharp curvature of walls negatively impacted wall preference by affecting the permissible angle of the wigwag movement. Together, these results indicate that planarian wall preference may be involuntarily caused by the combination of two spontaneous planarian behaviors: Moving straight ahead until reaching a wall and then moving along it in the absence of environmental cues, and wigwag movements of the head.

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