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Self/Non-Self Recognition Affects Cnida Discharge and Tentacle Contraction in the Sea Anemone Haliplanella luciae

Katrina A Gundlach, Glen M Watson
Biological Bulletin 2018, 235 (2): 83-90
Certain species of sea anemone live in tightly packed communities, among clonemates and non-clonemates. Competition for space leads to intraspecific and interspecific aggressive interactions among anemones. The initial aggressive interactions appear to involve reciprocal discharge of cnidae triggered by contact with non-self feeding tentacles. We asked whether molecules contained in anemone-derived mucus constituted an important cue alone or in combination with cell surface molecules in stimulating aggressive or avoidance behaviors. In this study, we found that self and non-self stimuli differentially influenced two effector systems: cnida discharge and tentacle contraction. Interspecific mucus enhanced nematocyst discharge by 44% and spirocyst discharge by 90%, as compared to baseline discharge obtained in seawater alone. Conspecific stimuli accompanying touch inhibited specific tentacle contractions occurring on the far side of anemones relative to the site of contact. The greatest tentacle contractions occurred with exposure to interspecific mucus and tissue. Thus, several receptor systems are involved that integrate chemical and mechanical cues in order to initiate appropriate and graded effector responses during competition for space.


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