Whats on a jelly mind - structure and function of a box jellyfish brain

Main area:Neurobiology
Target group:Biology
Educational level:Masters, Bachelor
Project description:

Figure 1. The Australian box jellyfish Chiropsella bronzi and a close up of a rhopalium with six eyes

A class within cnidarians, called cubozoans or box jellyfish, stand out from all other cnidarians. They have sensory structures carrying a total of 24 eyes of which some are image forming camera type eyes in many ways structurally similar to vertebrate eyes (see figure). These eyes are used to support much more advanced behaviours than seen in other cnidarians incl. obstacle avoidance, navigation, and habitat detection. Box jellyfish also have a central nervous system (CNS), which processes the visual information and controls the behaviours – in fact they have four parallel brains completing these tasks. Our recent work has shown that they are even able to learn and remember, which is necessary for them to optimize their foraging and obstacle avoidance behaviour. Currently, we have a good understanding of vision and the visually guided behaviours in box jellyfish but when it comes to their CNS and its neuronal processes very little is known.

              The project suggested here will look into the box jellyfish brain and the ability to learn. It will test several recently discovered neurotransmitter candidates and how they might affect the processes in the brain. It will also test how different visual input influences brain activity and learning. It will be possible to combine a number of different techniques incl. extra cellular electrophysiology, morphological examinations and reconstruction of nerve circuitry using electron microscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The candidate will also learn how to culture the model species of box jellyfish, Tripedalia cystophora.

Methods used:electrophysiology, electron microscopy, confocal microscopy, animal culturing
Keywords:Brain function, memory, nervous systen circuitry, Jellyfish
Supervisor(s):  Anders Garm