Calvin Zhang, CIMS
The Neural Mechanisms and Fluid Dynamics of Crustacean Swimming

A fundamental challenge in neuroscience is to understand how coordinated motor behaviors emerge from the intrinsic properties of neurons and the connectivity within neural circuits. However, the complexity of behaviors usually makes it difficult to assess their optimality, and neural circuits are often too complex to clearly identify the neural mechanisms underlying overt behavior. Limb coordination during forward swimming of long-tailed crustaceans, including crayfish, krill, shrimp, and lobsters, provides an ideal model system for examining the optimality of motor behavior and its neural underpinnings. Long-tailed crustaceans swim with a distinct wave-like limb coordination that is maintained over the entire biological range of animal size and paddling frequency, and the neural circuit underlying this robust behavior is relatively simple. We use a multi-disciplinary approach that includes dynamical systems, computational fluid dynamics and neuroscience to address (i) whether the distinct limb coordination in crustacean swimming is biomechanically optimal, and (ii) to identify the neural mechanism for producing this distinct limb coordination.