27 April 2010

Crustacean nociception: Origins, part 2

And now, the continuing backstory of our new PLoS One paper (previous post here)...

The idea of crustacean nociception hung around in the back of my mind as a good project in the first few years of 2000s. Periodically, I would go onto Google Scholar and elsewhere looking for papers, not just on crustacean nociception, but invertebrate nociception generally. I built a quite nice series of lectures for my neurobiology class along the way from that.

Around this this time, I started to see how often the question came up, and how badly botched the answers were. I blogged about it, and I got ever more annoyed, not just by the lack of an answer, but by how people were making assertions that had no basis in research.

A couple of students working with me did some very preliminary trials, looking for a way to test crustacean nociception experimentally. My first graduate student, Sandra, got a little bit of preliminary data that went into her master’s thesis. But it just wasn’t enough to push forward with the project.

Finally, Sakshi got on board, and we finally started to get the data that’s in this paper.

To give you an idea of how long we’ve been slogging away at this project, we started collecting data late 2007. We thought we were going to have this done in a couple of weeks, but the results didn’t cooperate. We gave a poster at a summer meeting Crustacean Society meeting in 2008 (visible here). Sakshi gave a talk at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in early 2009. Actual paper last week. So it’s been well over two years in the making.

So much of a research project is a story of false starts and points where you really wonder if you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. We had more than our fair share of those, starting from the very first experiments, where we weren’t getting the expected results.

None of that comes across in the technical paper. It’s nice to give at least a hint of that, even though, as I mentioned, I’m only telling a very small part of the backstory here.

Catch me at the International Association of Astacology or the International Society for Neuroethology meetings this summer, and I’ll tell you more!


Puri S, Faulkes Z. 2010. Do decapod crustaceans have nociceptors for extreme pH? PLoS ONE 5(4): e10244. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010244

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