Neuroethology of Navigation in Gastropods

The sea slug Tritonia  Below: video shows slugs navigating towards and feeding on soft coral prey.

Navigation is a key behaviour performed by all motile animals. We work with gastropods because they are both amenable to a variety of experiments (both behavioural and neurophysiological) and they provide an interesting contrast to the navigation behaviours of other animals. Slugs and snails primarily relay on odours and water flow to guide their longer distance movements, although light and other cues (including possibly the earth’s magnetic field) also can play a role. Our long term goal is to understand how the different sensory cues are integrated together to produce the coordinated responses we see as the animals seek out food and possible mates, while avoiding predators.

We tackle this problem using several approaches:

  • Modelling of navigation based on different sensory systems (including chemosensation, mechanosensation, and magnetoreception) and to explore the relative performance of different strategies in different sensory cue regimes.
    doi: 10.1093/icb/icv073 doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2010.00042
  • Field observations and experiments using SCUBA and underwater video to characterize the sensory cues and navigational responses in sea slug Tritonia
    doi:10.2307/4134598 doi:10.2307/4134599
  • Laboratory experiments testing responses to different sensory cues (odour gradients, odours plumes in flow, etc.) in both Tritonia and the pond snail Lymnaea
    doi: 10.1242/jeb.02164 doi:10.1080/10236244.2015.1123870
  • Neurophysiological experiments exploring the connection between the sensory organs that detect odours, flow and other cues, and the motor neurons that control turning.
    doi: 10.1242/jeb.02164

    A Tritonia neuron responsive to predator odour

Collaborators: Ryan Lukeman, Jim Murray

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