Research News

A new method to automatically track locomotion and feeding behavior in populations of C. elegans

Big scientist is watching you: Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology of Behavior ­­– caesar in Bonn, Germany, have developed a new method to track locomotion and feeding behavior of up to 50 unrestrained nematodes simultaneously. This large throughput approach will help to reveal fundamental mechanisms of how animals process signals and coordinate behavior.

Monika Scholz, head of the research group "Neural Information Flow" at the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology of Behavior, studies feeding behavior and locomotion in C. elegans. The tiny nematodes are a common model organism in neurobiology. Their nervous systems consists of only 302 well-studied neurons. C. elegans feed on bacteria and microorganisms, which they ingest by powerful pumping movements of their pharyngeal muscles. The animals have to constantly adapt both foraging and feeding speed to latest information such as odors, the nature of their environment and even their own appetite – a quite complex task.Monika Scholz and her group focus on feeding behavior in C. elegans to uncover basic mechanisms of how animals use information to coordinate different behaviors. Until now, feeding behavior in nematodes has been mostly studied by analyzing individual and restrained worms under the microscope.

The group has now developed a method that not only allows the simultaneous analysis of the locomotion of up to 50 unrestrained worms, but also records the feeding movements of each individual worm in great detail. The new method combines low-resolution fluorescence microscopy with a python-based, open-source analysis workflow which the group named "PharaGlow". In their latest publication in eLife, the researchers demonstrate that PharaGlow is a very reliable and powerful tool which can be used for several purposes. The group already investigated different foraging scenarios and compared the behavior of larvae and adult worms. In addition, they showed that PharaGlow is also well-suited for long-term observations, for example when investigating feeding during mating behavior. The new approach will allow tackling many other questions in C. elegans and related nematodes. Ultimately, these aproaches will help us understand general signal processing mechanisms that help coordinate multiple behaviors in animals.

To the publication


For further information please contact:

Dr. Monika Scholz
Max Planck Group Leader