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Planarians are free-living flatworms that are of interest to stem cell researchers due to their ability to regenerate. While molecular processes underlying these regenerative capabilities are being investigated, much remains unknown about the feeding and hunting strategies of planarians. Ensuring that laboratory planarian colonies are healthy is vital, and feeding protocols should be investigated and revised as needed to achieve optimal colony conditions. This study aimed to analyze the feeding behaviors of four planarian species: Dugesia japonica, Schmidtea mediterranea, Phagocata morgani, and Phagocata gracilis. These represent two pairs of closely related species: D. japonica and S. mediterranea (family Dugesiidae) and P. morgani and P. gracilis (family Planariidae). Thus, this study used a comparative approach to elucidate similarities and differences in behaviors across all four species. We hypothesized that more closely related species will have similar feeding strategies. We identified a total of nine behaviors: time taken to arrive at the food source, arriving and leaving the food source before returning to feed, time spent feeding, movement along the food, curling on top of the food, staying next to the food, head lifting while feeding, scrunching torso while feeding, and dragging food away to feed. Five behaviors were found to be species-specific: time to arrive at the food, dragging food away, movement, arriving and leaving before eating, and head lifting. We also found that sister species were more similar in behavior within a family as compared to outside their family. These results can be used to better inform current feeding protocols and improve the health of the planarian colonies.
Fayyaz, Tashifa, "Comparative Analysis of the Feeding Strategies of Phagocata morgani, Phagocata gracilis, Schmidtea mediterranea and Dugesia japonica Planaria." (2021). Honors Theses. 3413.
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