Thursday, November 3, 2016

How Animals Change Behavior Based on Social Information

At Rockefeller University's Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior, Cori Bargmann and her coworkers created a variety of experiments in order to look and understand how animals use social information to adapt their behavior. This was done using Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny roundworm with easily detectable habits. This is a simple organism that can give experimental data that may apply to all species and humans as well.

There are two types of ways that C. elegans looks for food: an exploratory behavior known as roaming and a less active behavior known as dwelling. The research group looked at the differences in the worms' behavior in different environments and settings. This led them to a new role for pheromones called ascarosides. A pheromone is a chemical that an animal produces which changes the behavior of another animal of the same species. The ascarosides are signaling molecules that control behavior in the roundworms such as male sexual activity. It was also observed that this pheromone helped the animals modify their behavior depending on how many worms were nearby. In crowded environments, the worms with a specific genetic variation adopt different behaviors than those who don't. Genetic variants were either insensitive or sensitive. Those that were insensitive make less of a key protein that senses the ascarosides than those that are sensitive.

According to Bargmann, one of the ways that behavior evolves is through the appearance of genetic changes that affect sensory capabilities. This study also shows that natural trait variations result because of environment and genetic changes. Through this study, it was recognized that population density can be a regulator of behavioral strategies. This can be used for future studies to see how human behavior's link to its animal origins. I think this study is awesome because it shows that animals are paying attention to their surroundings and the animals around them. Humans do the same thing and are constantly watching, observing and changing because of the people whom they are social with or who are around them constantly.

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