GSBS Student Publications


The C. elegans Touch Response Facilitates Escape From Predacious Fungi

Student Author(s)

Christopher M. Clark; Jennifer K. Pirri

GSBS Program


UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Alkema Lab; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience Program



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Caenorhabditis elegans; Selection, Genetic; Touch; Escape Reaction; Predatory Behavior


Neuroscience and Neurobiology


Predator-prey interactions are vital determinants in the natural selection of behavioral traits. Gentle touch to the anterior half of the body of Caenorhabditis elegans elicits an escape response in which the animal quickly reverses and suppresses exploratory head movements [1, 2]. Here, we investigate the ecological significance of the touch response in predator-prey interactions between C. elegans and predacious fungi that catch nematodes using constricting hyphal rings. We show that the constricting rings of Drechslerella doedycoides catch early larval stages with a diameter similar to the trap opening. There is a delay between the ring entry and ring closure, which allows the animal to withdraw from the trap before being caught. Mutants that fail to suppress head movements in response to touch are caught more efficiently than the wild-type. This demonstrates that the coordination of motor programs allows C. elegans to smoothly retract from a fungal noose and evade capture. Our results suggest that selective pressures imposed by predacious fungi have shaped the evolution of C. elegans escape behavior.

Rights and Permissions

Citation: Maguire SM, Clark CM, Nunnari J, Pirri JK and Alkema MJ. 2011. The C. elegans touch response facilitates escape from predacious fungi. Current Biology 21, 1326-1330. Link to article on publisher's website

DOI of Published Version


Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed


C. elegans, touch response, escape response, predacious fungi, neuroethology, Drechslerella doedycoides, neurobiology

Journal Title

Current Biology

PubMed ID