Separate sodium and calcium spikes in the same axon

G O Mackie, R W Meech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Aglantha digitale is a jellyfish (order Hydromedusae) capable of two distinct kinds of locomotion; 'slow' swimming which is generated endogenously and is used in fishing behaviour, and 'fast' swimming which is evoked by predators and serves for escape. Both forms of swimming are produced by contraction of the bell-shaped body wall and expulsion of a jet of water from an opening at the base of the animal. During slow swimming, the contractions are weak and the animal moves about 15 mm, roughly one body length, but during a fast swim there is a more violent contraction which can propel the animal five times as far. Both forms of contraction depend on impulses in the eight giant motor axons that synapse directly with the muscle sheet making up the inner surface of the body wall. We report here that the giant motor axons are able to mediate both kinds of activity because they can conduct two different sorts of impulse. Fast swimming requires a rapidly conducted Na+-dependent action potential whereas slow swimming depends on a low amplitude Ca2+ 'spike'. This is the first report of an axon capable of two kinds of impulse propagation and it provides a physiological function for low potential Ca2+ activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-3
Number of pages3
Issue number6005
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 1985


  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Calcium
  • Cnidaria
  • Kinetics
  • Motor Neurons
  • Scyphozoa
  • Sodium
  • Swimming

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