Gal Haspel, Lan Deng, Maria Belen Harreguy, Zainab Tanvir

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


With a compact nervous system and nearly complete knowledge of its connectivity, genome, and developmental lineage, Caenorhabditis elegans offers some open questions about the neuronal mechanisms that underlie its locomotion. The nematode undulates its rod-shaped body elegantly to move forward or backward, by propagating body bends against the direction of translocation. The pattern of muscle activity that underlies this motor program is a propagation of alternating differential activation of antagonistic muscles, essentially a simplified version of any other motor program for animal locomotion. Simplified, because of the small number of muscle cells, and the lack of limbs and tendons that translate muscle contraction. In C. elegans each body wall muscle cell contributes to local bending. Moreover, the musculature is controlled by a compact nervous system. With only 302 neurons in every hermaphrodite animal (385 in the male), all named and identifiable by location and morphology, it is arguably the most comprehensively described nervous system. The only organism-wide wiring diagram, painstakingly reconstructed from electron micrographs [1, 2] is accompanied by the first sequenced and annotated genome of a multicellular organism [3], and a complete developmental lineage [4, 5]. Here, we describe the locomotor behavior and the underlying neuromuscular system and summarize findings that suggest how the locomotion circuit generates the motor pattern, as well as research approaches. Finally, we offer a framework of analogy to compare C. elegans with other animal locomotor networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Neural Control of Movement
Subtitle of host publicationModel Systems and Tools to Study Locomotor Function
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780128164778
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience


  • C. elegans
  • Connectome
  • Crawling
  • Motoneurons
  • Nematode
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuroethology
  • Proprioception
  • Swimming
  • Undulation


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