Download Presentation (673 KB)

Publication Date


Document Type


Presentation Type


Degree Type



Biological Sciences


Wolfgang Stein

Mentor Department

Biological Sciences


Habitat temperature determines the temperature range in which the nervous system can function Around the world, climate change is causing fluctuations in environmental temperatures. Since all biological processes are temperature-dependent, environmental temperature fluctuations can be detrimental to important behaviors and physiological functions. This is especially true for ectothermic species whose body temperatures change with ambient temperature. In the nervous system, an increase in temperature causes an imbalance of ionic conductances that are key to neural processing and communication, leading to failure of neuronal function. Thus, maintaining nervous system function over physiological temperature ranges is critical for survival. Although the effects of climate change induced environmental temperature changes on behavior and mortality are well studied, the effects on underlying nervous system function are far from clear. To better understand environmental temperature effects on nervous system function, I am investigating temperature responses in a well-characterized motor system in the crustacean stomatogastric nervous system (STNS). The STNS controls rhythmic chewing and filtering in the animal's stomach, serving a vital function in survival. Of its two neuronal circuits, one is intrinsically temperature-compensated, while the other requires extrinsic neuromodulation to function in an extended temperature range. In a comparative approach, I record the rhythms of both neuronal circuits using established electrophysiology methods and identify the range of temperatures at which the rhythms remain stable in several related crab species: Cancer borealis, Cancer magister, and Carcinus maenas. The question driving my research is whether the environmental temperatures experienced by a species affect the temperatures at which the nervous system can function. My results from the intrinsically temperature-compensated neuronal circuit show that the temperatures at which the rhythm is stable correspond to environmental temperatures, both in mean and range of temperatures. The species that experiences a greater mean and range of temperatures in its environment had a rhythm that was stable at a greater mean and range of temperatures. Specifically, C. maenas, which experiences habitat temperatures ranging 0-35°C, had a rhythm that was stable from around 6-34°C while C. borealis and C. magister, which both experience habitat temperatures ranging 3-25°C, had rhythms that remained stable from around 6- 26°C. My data thus suggest that habitat temperature determines the mean and range of temperatures at which the nervous system can function.


Authors: Liisi Vink-Lainas and Wolfgang Stein

Vink-Lainas.pdf (672 kB)
Habitat Temperature Determines The Temperature Range In Which The Nervous System Can Function