Skip to main content

Avoided temperature leads to the surface: computer modeling of slime mold and nematode thermotaxis

Summary

In thermal gradients, pseudoplasmodia of slime molds and starved nematodes have been reported to move away from a temperature near their acclimation temperature. The consequences of this behavior are not clear in the thermal environment of soil where typically there are waves of alternating high and low temperatures propagating down into the soil with little difference in temperature averaged over time. Computer modeling of this situation demonstrates complex movements with important consequences. The organisms move upward during two intervals during a day and downward during the intervening intervals. The upward and downward movements do not balance. The net movement may be in either direction depending on the specific values of certain physiological parameters. Thus, thermotaxis can lead to a net change in depth even though the average temperature is the same everywhere. Organisms moving faster than the rate of penetration of the thermal wave (2–3 cm/h) will follow it into the interior. Also, organisms that avoid a temperature outside the range of thermal variation, will have a net movement away from the surface. However, slow moving organisms that avoid a temperature near the mean temperature move toward the surface and will reach it in twice the time it would take if always moving toward the surface. The optimal rate of movement to reach the surface in minimum time is about 0.8 cm/h. Thermal acclimation can increase the efficiency of moving toward the surface. At the rate of locomotion of slime molds (0.1–0.2 cm/h), the optimal rate of acclimation is about 0.3/h, which is approximately their actual rate of acclimation. These results suggest that thermotaxis can be used by simple organisms to move toward or away from an interface between media of different thermal properties even though there is no gradient in average temperature.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bonner JT, Clarke WW Jr, Neely CL Jr, Slifkin MK (1950) The orientation to light and the extremely sensitive orientation to temperature gradients in the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum. J Cell Comp Physiol 36:149–158

    Google Scholar 

  • Campbell GS (1977) An introduction to environmental biophysics, pp 14–16. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Dohrmann U, Fisher PR, Brüderlein M, Williams KL (1984) Transitions in Dictyostelium discoideum behaviour: influence of calcium and fluoride on slug phototaxis and thermotaxis. J Cell Sci 65:111–121

    Google Scholar 

  • El-Sherif M, Mai WF (1969) Thermotactic response of some plant parasitic nematodes. J Nematol 1:43–48

    Google Scholar 

  • Fisher PR, Williams KL (1982) Thermotactic behaviour of Dictyostelium discoideum slug phototaxis mutants. J Gen Microbiol 128:965–971

    Google Scholar 

  • Goode M, Dusenbery DB (1985) Behavior of tethered Meloidogyne incognita. J Nematol 17:460–464

    Google Scholar 

  • Hedgecock EM, Russell RL (1975) Normal and mutant thermotaxis in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 72:4061–4065

    Google Scholar 

  • Nobel PS (1983) Biophysical plant physiology and ecology. Freeman, San Francisco

    Google Scholar 

  • Poff KL, Fontana DR, Whitaker BD (1984) Temperature sensing in microorganisms. In: Colombetti G, Lenci F (eds) Membranes and sensory transduction. Plenum Press, New York, pp 137–162

    Google Scholar 

  • Poff KL, Skokut M (1977) Thermotaxis by pseudoplasmodia of Dictyostelium discoideum. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 74:2007–2010

    Google Scholar 

  • Poinar GO Jr (1983) The Natural History of Nematodes. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

    Google Scholar 

  • Raper KB (1940) Pseudoplasmodium formation and organization in Dictyostelium discoideum. J Elisha Mitchell Sci Soc 56:241–282

    Google Scholar 

  • Whitaker BD, Poff KL (1980) Thermal adaptation of thermosensing and negative thermotaxis in Dictyostelium. Exp Cell Res 128:87–93

    Google Scholar 

  • Wijk WR van (1966) Physics of the Plant Environment. North Holland, Amsterdam

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Dusenbery, D.B. Avoided temperature leads to the surface: computer modeling of slime mold and nematode thermotaxis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22, 219–223 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00300572

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00300572

Keywords

  • Computer Modeling
  • Thermal Property
  • Actual Rate
  • Thermal Gradient
  • Physiological Parameter