Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Robin Lewis Cooper


Despite dramatic morphological differences between animals from different taxa, several important features in organization and sensory system processing are similar across animals. Because of this similarity, a number of different organisms including mammals, insects, and decapod crustaceans serve as valuable model systems for understanding general principles of environmental effects. This research examines intrinsic and extrinsic factors by behaviorally and physiologically means to identify the impact of environmental conditions on two distinct crayfish species- Procambarus clarkii (surface) and Orconectes australis packardi (cave).

The research identified behavioral and physiological responses in these two morphological and genetically distinct species. The studies also examined multiple levels of complexity including social behavior, an autonomic response, chemosensory capabilities and neuronal communication, identified comparative similarities/differences, addressed learning and environmental influences on learning and examined behavioral and cellular responses to high levels of carbon dioxide. I found environmental factors directly influence crayfish behavior of social interactions. Interactions were more aggressive, more intense and more likely to end with a physical confrontation when they took place 'in water' than 'out of water'. The modified social interaction resulted in a altered fighting strategy.

A study on motor task learning was undertaken which showed similar learning trends among these crayfish species despite their reliance on different sensory modalities. I also demonstrated learning was dependent on perceived stress by the organism. Previously trained crayfish inhibited from completing a task showed significant increase in an autonomic stress response.

Studies on the behavioral and physiological responses to CO2 revealed that high [CO2] is a repellent in a concentration dependent manner. The autonomic responses in heart rate and an escape tailflip reflex shows complete cessation with high [CO2]. A mechanistic effect of CO2 is by blocking glutamate receptors at the neuromuscular junction and through inhibition of the motor nerve within the CNS.