Chemosensation in Blue Crabs and their Reaction to Attractive and Aversive Cues
Mankin, Danielle N.
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Blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, use their olfactory system as their primary sense of environmental perception. These animals, and others such as insects, use a specific type of olfactory system called chemosensation. This system entails having different sensory receptors on different areas of the body. Specifically, blue crabs have two organs, cephalic and thoracic sensory populations. This allows the crab to simultaneously differentiate between odors and allow for more accurate tracking, or finding of food. Some is known about which sensory organs detect which odor, however, it is currently unknown which of these different sensory organs is responsible for detecting predators. This information will help scientists better understand the overall system of chemosensation as well as having implications in such areas as predator-prey dynamics and robotics simulations. Various deafferentation techniques were used to ablate or temporarily remove the sensory receptors of a single organ at a time. The animal was subjected to a food odor, predator odor, and a combination of the two to test their reaction. Results supported previous research by indicating that intact blue crabs typically track a food odor and typically do not track an odor with a predator scent in it, even in combination with food. Also, as supported by previous research, both cephalic and thoracic sensory populations are responsible for detecting food and the deafferentation of one sensory population results in the decreased ability of the crab to successfully track. It was found that when the cephalic sensors were deafferented that crab lost its ability to detect the predator odor and began tracking in a similar manner as a deafferented crab tracking only a food odor. Therefore, this research indicates that the cephalic sensory populations are responsible for detecting predator odors.