Activation of Mauthner neurons during prey capture
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Goldfish were chronically implanted with electrodes positioned near the axon cap of one of the two M-cells. Subsequently, M-cell activity was monitored for up to 8 days while fish were surface feeding on live crickets.
The M-cell fires and the fish performs a C-shaped flexion in association with the terminal phase of prey capture. Thus, the M-cell is active in the context of at least two behaviors, predator escape and prey capture, and may be considered a part of behaviorally shared neural circuitry.
For the goldfish, Mauthner-initiated flexions during feeding rapidly remove the prey from the water's surface and minimizes the fish's own susceptibility to surface predation. Other species may possess a diverse repertoire of Mauthner-mediated feeding behaviors that depend on their adaptive specializations for predation. Moreover, group competition between predators and their prey may have facilitated a “neural arms race” for M-cell morphology and physiology.
Key wordsMauthner cell Prey capture Behavioral multifunction Escape neuron Shared circuitry Neu ral arms race
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