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Planarians are becoming more prevalent as a model organism for stem cell research. However, maintaining colony health in the laboratory can be challenging, and proper feeding is an essential component of keeping worms healthy. Despite this, little is known about the normal feeding strategies of planaria. This study aims to analyze the feeding strategies of two planarian species: Dugesia japonica and Schmidtea mediterranea. We hypothesized that different flatworm species have different feeding and hunting strategies, and that more closely related species will have more similar feeding strategies. Nine behaviors were investigated: time to arrive at food, number of times approaching food prior to feeding, time spent feeding, position during feeding (on food and next to food), head lifting while feeding, scrunching while feeding, movement along food while feeding, and dragging food away. Three of the nine behaviors (time to arrive at food, number of times approaching food prior to feeding, and positions during feeding) were found to be significantly different between the two species. Additionally, food ingestion was analyzed by the intake of fluorescently-labeled dextran, and a significant difference in the dispersal of food throughout the intestinal track was found between the two species. Together, these data suggest that there are significant species-specific differences in feeding and hunting behaviors in planaria that could be used to improve health of research colonies.
Bolhuis, Emily, "Analyses of the Feeding Strategies of Dugesia japonica and Schmidtea mediterranea Planaria" (2019). Honors Theses. 3203.