Neurobehavioral specializations for respiratory movements and rapid escape from predators in posterior segments of the tubificid Branchiura sowerbyi Academic Article uri icon


  • The posterior end of the aquatic oligochaete, Branchiura sowerbyi (Tubificidae) protrudes above the sediments and is specialized to carry out several rhythmic respiratory movements. These include 1) waves of flexion by paired gill filaments on each posterior segment, 2) body undulations, and 3) rectal water pumping. Since execution of these behaviors renders the worm's posterior end vulnerable to predation, appropriate neurobehavioral mechanisms have evolved that permit extremely rapid escape of tail segments into the sediments. Some of these mechanisms include 1) highly sensitive sensory apparatus for detecting substrate vibrations, water displacements, or touch, 2) large diameter and rapidly conducting lateral giant nerve fibers, and 3) adequacy of a single lateral giant fiber impulse for evoking an all-or-none longitudinal muscle contraction. The significance of these posterior respiratory and escape reflex specializations are discussed in relation to possible predator foraging strategies. 1989 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

published proceedings

  • Hydrobiologia

author list (cited authors)

  • Drewes, C. D., & Zoran, M. J.

citation count

  • 22

complete list of authors

  • Drewes, Charles D||Zoran, Mark J

publication date

  • January 1989