A Kinematic Study of Pulsation in the Dorsal Blood Vessel of the blackworm, Lumbriculus variegatus

Saint Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

The aquatic oligochaete Lumbriculus variegatus has a segmented, dorsal blood vessel (DBV) that acts as a peristaltic pump to move blood through the animal's closed circulatory system. We conducted a kinematic study using videography and computational modeling as a first step toward understanding the control of DBV pulsation. Results suggested that pulse rates were highest in the posterior segments, while interpulse intervals and intersegmental delays were longest in the midbody segments. Differences in the interpulse interval distributions across regions suggest that some peristaltic waves initiated in the posterior segments do not propagate all the way to the anterior segments. A simple model consisting of a chain of excitable neuromuscular units replicated these kinetics. This model may be useful in future research aimed at understanding the modulatory effect of biogenic amines on peristalsis of the DBV. Moreover, research into the mechanisms of peristalsis of the DBV may lead to insights into disorders of peristalsis in human and veterinary medicine.

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