Ophiuroids locomote along the seafloor by coordinated rhythmic movements of multi-segmented arms. The mechanisms by which such coordinated movements are achieved are a focus of interest from the standpoints of neurobiology and robotics, because ophiuroids appear to lack a central nervous system that could exert centralized control over five arms. To explore the underlying mechanism of arm coordination, we examined the effects of selective anesthesia to various parts of the body of ophiuroids on locomotion. We observed the following: (1) anesthesia of the circumoral nerve ring completely blocked the initiation of locomotion; however, initiation of single arm movement, such as occurs during the retrieval of food, was unaffected, indicating that the inability to initiate locomotion was not due to the spread of the anesthetic agent. (2) During locomotion, the midsegments of the arms periodically made contact with the floor to elevate the disc. In contrast, the distal segments of the arms were pointed aborally and did not make contact with the floor. (3) When the midsegments of all arms were anesthetized, arm movements were rendered completely uncoordinated. In contrast, even when only one arm was left intact, inter-arm coordination was preserved. (4) Locomotion was unaffected by anesthesia of the distal arms. (5) A radial nerve block to the proximal region of an arm abolished coordination among the segments of that arm, rendering it motionless. These findings indicate that the circumoral nerve ring and radial nerves play different roles in intra-and inter-arm coordination in ophiuroids.
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