Hydra feeding

Hydra is a genus of simple, fresh-water animals possessing radial symmetry. Hydras are predatory animals belonging to the phylum Cnidaria and the class Hydrozoa. They can be found in most unpolluted freshwater ponds, lakes and streams in the temperate and tropical regions by gently sweeping a collecting net through weedy areas. They are usually a few milimeters long and are best studied with a microscope. Biologists are especially interested in hydras due to their regenerative ability. Hydras appear to be unique among animals in that they do not undergo senescence (aging).

When feeding, hydras extend their body to maximum length and then slowly extend their tentacles. Despite their simple construction, the tentacles of hydras are extraordinarily extensible and can be four to five times the length of the body. Once fully extended, the tentacles are slowly maneuvered around waiting for contact with a suitable prey animal. Upon contact, nematocysts on the tentacle fire into the prey and the tentacle itself coils around the prey. Within 30 seconds most of the remaining tentacles will have already joined in the attack to subdue the struggling prey. Within two minutes, the tentacles will have surrounded the prey and moved it into the opened mouth aperture. Within ten minutes, the prey will have been enclosed within the gastrovascular cavity and digestion will have started. The hydra is able to stretch its body wall considerably in order to digest prey more than twice its size. After two or three days, the undigestible remains of the prey will be discharged by contractions through the mouth aperture.

The feeding behaviour of the hydra demonstrates the sophistication of what appears to be a simple nervous system.

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