Student Names: Worm Name: Science. LAB: Observing Planarians

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1 Student Names: Worm Name: Science LAB: Observing Planarians Introduction: Planarians are invertebrate animals belonging to the Phylum Platyhelminthes (flatworms). You can easily find planarians on your own. Shake pond weeds into a pan or turn over stream rocks and look carefully at the rocks surfaces. You can also collect flatworms on your own. Put a small pellet of canned pet food in an old nylon stocking. Secure that bag in a stream bed or shore overnight. In the morning, you may find a collection of flatworms crawling over the bag! In this investigation, you will observe planarians and identify their structures and behavior. You will also conduct a few experiments. Planarian Anatomy: Planarians have a head with a pair of pigmented eyespots and a pair of side projections called auricles. These auricles have sensory cells that respond to chemicals and/or touch. When the planarians move, they test the environment ahead of them by oscillating the head region. The gliding locomotion is powered by cilia that cover the animal s ventral surface and is directed by muscular movements of the body. Slimy mucus is secreted by glands on the underbelly of the body and provides traction for the cilia. The head region also contains ganglia, which is not a true brain, but rather a simple nerve bundle, that controls the organism s various functions. The ganglia are connected to the ventral nerve cords that relay messages from one end of the planarian s body to the other. Rather than a mouth at the head like other organisms, the planarian mouth is a small hole near the center of the ventral surface. The mouth leads into a central cavity containing the pharynx, which in turn, leads into the large gastrovascular cavity. When the planarian encounters food, the pharynx protrudes through the mouth, and a slight sucking action draws food particles into the gastrovascular cavity. The pharynx is often referred to as the feeding tube. In this lab experiment, we will feed our planarian hard-boiled eggs. Planarians can reproduce both asexually and sexually. Sexual reproduction is seasonal, and reproductive organs develop as that season approaches. Both male and female organs are present in each worm, but the individuals mate with each other and exchange sperm. This will count as a TEST Grade to hold students accountable to following directions and proper, careful lab technique. Advanced Level indicates extended learning. It is not required but recommended for accelerated learners to demonstrate further understanding and proficient lab skills. Part 1: Anatomy and Physiology of your worm Directions: Define each of the following terms using online resources as needed. Invertebrate: Anterior: Ventral: Dorsal: Pigmented: Oscillate: Cavity: Protrude: 1

2 Directions: Determine the function of each of the following structures from information above or online as needed. Eyespots: Auricles: Cilia: Ganglia: Ventral Nerve Cords: Mouth: Pharynx: Gastrovascular Cavity: Directions: Label the planarian s structures with the terms above. Materials: Petri dish Hard-boiled egg (yolk) spring water pipette scalpels stereoscope marker small metric ruler ice - optional In the next few sections, you will be observing planarian responses to stimuli. Define stimulus: 2

3 Part 1B: Feeding Watch the video, How Planarian Eat, on our web site. Your teacher will place portions of hard-boiled egg yolk in the main container of Planarian. Observe the planarians reactions. This may take a few minutes. Record your observations in the table below. In the following sections of the lab, we will be studying the taxis of planaria. Taxis is an innate behavioral response by an organism to a stimulus whereby an organism moves either towards (positive taxis) or away from (negative taxis) the stimulus. Types of taxis in include: chemotaxis (chemicals), hydrotaxis (moisture), phototaxis (light), thermotaxis (temperature), and thigmotaxis (touch). TABLE 1. Feeding How do the planarian react? Advanced level: Positive or Negative Chemotaxis to egg yolk? How does it eat? Where is its mouth located? What is the name of the feeding tube? Part 2: Observing your planarian 1. The flatworm is the freshwater planarian, known as Dugesia. You will receive a small petri dish with a flatworm inside it. These worms are hermaphroditic, so you can give it either a boy or girl name. Write it on the petri dish and your science class period. Record all of your answers and data for Part 2 in Table Dead planarian will result in the loss of 10 points off from the lab grade. You may make up 5 points for your dead planarian by composing a 1 paragraph (4-5 sentences) explanation as to why you think your planarian died. You need to give an honest evaluation as to the circumstances that led to your planarian s demise. The following questions will be done in TABLE 2 on the next page. 3. List 3 characteristics of ALL flatworms. 4. What type of symmetry does this worm have? Use the diagram below to answer. 5. Look at your planarian under the dissecting scope. 6. Sketch the planarian. Label the eyespots. Label the anterior (front) and posterior (rear) ends. 3

4 7. Measure your planarian. You can do this by first placing a thin ruler under the petri dish. Then, remove some of the water in the dish with a pipette and wait for the worm to stretch out. Measure the length of the worm in millimeters. When finished, replace the water if needed (SPRING WATER ONLY). 8. Write the length on the board. When all the lengths are written down, determine the average planarian length for your class. TABLE 2: Planarian Observations Characteristics of flatworms Type of Symmetry: Sketch: Length of your planarian in millimeters (mm) Class average length of planarian (mm) Part 3: Observing movement and behavior. Record your observations in Table Observe the planarian for five minutes. Does the planarian seem active or passive? How does it move? Does it swim or creep? 2. Where in the dish does the planarian spend most of its time? 3. Make a current in the water with a pipette. How does the planarian react? 4. Turn the light off to the dissecting scope for at least 60 seconds. Then turn the light back on. How does the planarian react? Table 3: Planaria Movement and Behavior Movement Location Preference Reaction to Current Positive or Negative thigmotaxis? Reaction to Light Positive or Negative phototaxis? 4

5 Part 4: Observing Planarian handedness. Record your observations in Table 4. Like you, Planarians actually display a handedness, being right or left handed. You can discover whether your worm is right or left handed by creating a current underwater causing the planarian to flip over on its dorsal (back). Watch which way it recovers. If it rolls to the right, it is right handed, if it rolls to the left, it is left handed. Do five trials to determine the handedness of your planarian and write results in the table below. Table 4: Handedness Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Trial 4 Trial 5 Based on your trials, is the worm right-handed or left-handed? Part 5: Exploring Further Regeneration Watch the Planarian Regeneration video from Exploratorium. c. At minute 1:59 in the video, what does the white area indicate in the tissue of the animal? d. Watch this video on Stem Cells from Exploratorium. Why are scientists interested in stem cells? 5

6 Part 5: To do the Planarian Regeneration experiment: 1. Cuts must be precise and clean through. You can slow down your worm by removing some of the water until the planarian is mostly un-submerged. 2. Make a Prediction: How long do you think it will take (in days) for your planarian to completely regenerate? 3. Draw the worm and a dotted line for the type of cut you will do for this experiment: Horizontal? Vertical? Near the head? 4. Make the cut with the scalpel and then record your first observations in the Daily Regeneration Observation table below. Table 5: Regeneration Observations DATE QUALITATIVE & QUANTITATIVE OBSERVATIONS CONCLUSION: Was your prediction correct? What does your worm look like now? 6

7 Advanced Learning Addendum: 1. Exploratorium Video on Planarian Regeneration and Stem Cells 2. Define: Differentiate- Apoptosis- Why is it beneficial to study an organism like planarian? Where are stem cells located in the human body? 3. Variations of Taxis Experiments: Response to light: Test the flatworm s response to light by placing several specimens in choice chamber of water and offering them a choice of light or dark regions. Cover half of the dish with black construction paper, and arrange a bright light to illuminate the other half of the dish. Start with the flatworms in the illuminated half of the dish. Note their response after a few minutes, and repeat the test several times. Do you get the same result each time? Of what value would this response be in nature? Response to touch: Touch the animal gently on the auricles and on other parts of the body. Record the results. Righting reaction : Turn an animal over with a note card, and observe its response. How do you think it senses orientation? Reaction to mild salt: Using a very dilute salt solution, determine if the planaria preference. Reaction to color: Using two or three colors of construction paper, determine if the planaria have a preference for one color or another. 7

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