Coordinated Feeding Behavior in Trichoplax, an Animal without Synapses. Academic Article uri icon


  • Trichoplax is a small disk-shaped marine metazoan that adheres to substrates and locomotes by ciliary gliding. Despite having only six cell types and lacking synapses Trichoplax coordinates a complex sequence of behaviors culminating in external digestion of algae. We combine live cell imaging with electron microscopy to show how this is accomplished. When Trichoplax glides over a patch of algae, its cilia stop beating so it ceases moving. A subset of one of the cell types, lipophils, simultaneously secretes granules whose content rapidly lyses algae. This secretion is accurately targeted, as only lipophils located near algae release granules. The animal pauses while the algal content is ingested, and then resumes gliding. Global control of gliding is coordinated with precise local control of lipophil secretion suggesting the presence of mechanisms for cellular communication and integration.

publication date

  • 2015