What is Kinesis?

Instructor: Jeremy Battista
Have you ever wondered how or why an animal might move? Why do worms crawl faster or slower at times? The answer is kinesis. In this lesson, we will discuss what this means and how it works.

Kinesis Explained

Every organism has ways in which to move around its environment. It needs to be able to avoid predators and dangers, as well as find mates, find food, find shelter, etc. Some of these mechanisms are complex and some are simple. Kinesis is one of the most simple.

A kinesis is an automatic and immediate change in your activity due to some sort of a stimulus. 'But what is a stimulus?' you might ask. A stimulus is anything that causes an action or reaction from something else. The most classic example of a stimulus is the experiment done by Pavlov with his dogs. Every he fed his dogs, he would ring a bell. Eventually, anytime Pavlov rang a bell his dogs salivated, expecting food.

Kinesis deals with the addition of a stimulus that causes an organism to act in a certain manner. Again, this helps it avoid predators or danger and can help the organism maneuver around its environment and live. An example that consistently crops up when researching kinesis is woodlice or sow bugs, sometimes lovingly referred to as 'rolly pollies.'

These sow bugs do not prefer drier areas and can be much more active in these dry areas. In more humid and damp environments, they do not move as quickly and their activity level drops. As a result, they would rather stay in the moist environments and this kinesis keeps them there. They move slower in damp areas and faster in dry ones, so they tend to remain in the moist environment over the drier one.

We need to realize, though, that kinesis will simply dictate some sort of response to a stimulus. It does not dictate where or how the response occurs, just that it does. Back to my sow bug example, the bugs themselves do not move toward a moist environment. When they find one, however, they tend to stay amongst it. Cockroaches are another example. By flicking on the lights in your home, you cause the cockroach to run away from the light. It does not run in any particular direction, just away from the light.

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