Although researchers have studied sensitization in Aplysia for decades, they have yet to investigate the role of sensitization in the natural ecology of the sea hare. Virtually all other study of sensitization in Aplysia uses strong electric shock as the sensitizing stimulus. Once sea hares have received such a shock, their responses to even mild stimuli are greatly enhanced, or sensitized. Chapman students have now shown that naturally occurring stimuli can also cause sensitization in Aplysia. In particular, sublethal attacks by two predators, lobsters and the predacious sea slug, Navanax, produce sensitization in
Aplysia. Interestingly, the time-course of sensitization after these two different kinds of attack stimuli (see videos below) are very different, suggesting different neural mechanisms. Students are now investigating these temporal and mechanistic differences.
Predator-induced sensitization of Aplysia