Introduction. Planarians are renowned for their regenerative ability due to pluripotent stem cells, as well as their peculiar photophobic response. However, few facts are known about their aggregational behavior. This study aims to reveal the effect of light on aggregational behavior. Reynierse (1966) suggested that light has a negative effect on the formation of aggregations. However, one of his objectives for aggregational behavior was inappropriate. This study reevaluated the effect of existence of light on aggregational behavior, as well as ascertained the effect of wavelength on the formation of aggregations.
Methods. In this study, the ratio of individuals participating in aggregations was measured as a criterion to determine aggregational behavior. Aggregational behavior was measured after two hours from the initial exposure to different light sources. The behaviors under white LED light and under shade were compared, as well as the behaviors under five different light sources: infrared lamp, red, green, blue LED, and ultraviolet lamp.
Results. The existence of light interfered the formation of aggregations (t-test, p < 0.0001), which supports the former study of Reynierse. Also, aggregational behavior differed under different wavelengths (ANOVA, p < 0.0001). Except for the infrared light which emitted a wide range of wavelengths, the behavior showed hierarchy: decreasing aggregational behavior in accordance with decreasing wavelength. UV light has the most significant negative effect on the formation of aggregations.
Discussion. Exposure to light caused negative effects on performing aggregational behavior. Participation in aggregations appears to be influenced by photophobic response, especially under lights of short wavelength. Disintegrating aggregations under exposure to lights can potentially bring evolutionary benefit. This behavior possibly makes the aggregating planarians altogether exposed to a higher risk or predation, considering that they lack defense mechanisms. Planarians can lower the risk and continue the populations by disintegrating the aggregational behavior under the existence of UV and lights of higher wavelength, which are indicatives of daytime. Understanding aggregational behavior of animals of a lower order would give better insight on general herding behavior, and potentially help interpreting more complex behaviors of higher animals.