A novel computational approach of image analysis to quantify behavioural response to heat shock in Chironomus ramosus larvae (Diptera: Chironomidae)


  • Bimalendu B. Nath Department of Zoology, Savitribai Phule Pune University
  • Damayanti C. Gharpure Department of Electronics, Savitribai Phule Pune University




All living cells respond to temperature stress through coordinated cellular, biochemical and molecular events known as “heat shock response” and its genetic basis has been found to be evolutionarily conserved. Despite marked advances in stress research, this ubiquitous heat shock response has never been analysed quantitatively at the whole organismal level using behavioural correlates. We have investigated behavioural response to heat shock in a tropical midge Chironomus ramosus Chaudhuri, Das and Sublette. The filter-feeding aquatic Chironomus larvae exhibit characteristic undulatory movement. This innate pattern of movement was taken as a behavioural parameter in the present study. We have developed a novel computer-aided image analysis tool “Chiro” for the quantification of behavioural responses to heat shock. Behavioural responses were quantified by recording the number of undulations performed by each larva per unit time at a given ambient temperature. Quantitative analysis of undulation frequency was carried out and this innate behavioural pattern was found to be modulated as a function of ambient temperature. Midge larvae are known to be bioindicators of aquatic environments. Therefore, the “Chiro” technique can be tested using other potential biomonitoring organisms obtained from natural aquatic habitats using undulatory motion as a behavioural parameter.