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The Angelic Creature With Devilish Charm

By Gail Maiorana

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  • Gait: a way of moving.
  • Generated: caused by.
  • Muscle Stimulation: causing activity in the muscles.
  • Neurobiology: the study of the nervous system.

clioneA tiny creature that flies and swims at the same time caught the attention of Arizona State University Professor Richard Satterlie a few years ago. "I study how the nervous system controls behavior," he says. "When we walk, we walk right leg, left leg. Otherwise we're hopping."

The muscle movements across the three joints in the leg have to be coordinated. The nervous system has to produce a rhythm for that to happen. The rhythm or pattern stays the same as a person walks faster, but the rhythm for walking is different from the rhythm for running. The clione appears to have wings like an angel and horns like a devil. This creature that can change rhythms, or gaits, rapidly.

 

satterlieSatterlie's work involves going to the state of Washington every summer to collect the creatures known as clione limacina. He and other researchers use nets to fish the clione out of the water and put them in gallon jars full of sea water. Then they put the jars in a refrigerator. When he's ready to study the clione, he uses tiny glass tubes open at both ends and conducting solution made of potassium acetate. He and other researchers insert electrodes into the mollusk's muscles. A machine records the electric activity of the clione's nerve cells. The research into the mollusk's neurobiology is important for robotics and computer generated muscle stimulation.

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.