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The Digestive Tract of Cephalopods: at the Interface Between Physiology and Ecology

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Cephalopods are marine predators with most species actively hunting for their preys, while other are scavengers. Understanding the physiological adaptations of these fascinating and complex molluscs poses important challenges for several disciplines.
Very little research has been done on the digestive ...

Cephalopods are marine predators with most species actively hunting for their preys, while other are scavengers. Understanding the physiological adaptations of these fascinating and complex molluscs poses important challenges for several disciplines.
Very little research has been done on the digestive tract of cephalopod molluscs during the last 30 years, in contrast to many other areas of cephalopod biology. Understanding its normal functioning has wide ranging implications for fisheries, aquaculture, and for the care and welfare of cephalopods in the laboratory and in public displays. Most of the available knowledge on the cephalopod “gut” and physiology of digestion is based on assumptions by analogy with the vertebrate digestive system. Nevertheless, the normal functioning of the digestive tract relates to important physiological aspects such as appetitive drive, signaling satiety, storage and coordinated oro-anal movement of ingested food and digesta, extra- and intra-cellular digestion, epithelial and intra-cellular transport, metabolism and incorporation of nutrients in the tissues. Each of these phenomena is essential for normal development and growth as well as for the maintenance of health and wellbeing. Alterations in digestive tract functionality are also a sensitive indicator of gastrointestinal and systemic infections, disease and external stressors in the broadest sense.
Recent renewed interest in these animals is due to the challenges posed by the Directive 2010/63/EU that includes all 700 species (at all life stages) as the sole representatives among invertebrates in the list of species whose use in scientific research is regulated.

This Research Topic focuses on current advances in the knowledge of the physiology of the cephalopod digestive tract in health and disease including nutritional requirements and diet in the natural environment, digestion and metabolism, as well as welfare. Understanding its normal functioning and pathophysiology has wide ranging implications for aquaculture, fisheries and for the care and welfare of cephalopods. Our aim is to promote publication of established and emergent research studies as well as identification of novel techniques for investigation and particularly those that promote application of the principles of replacement, refinement and reduction as applied to research on living animals.
Most of the contributions arise from a workshop on the cephalopod digestive tract organized under the aegis of the COST Action FA1301 “A network for improvement of cephalopod welfare and husbandry in research, aquaculture and fisheries (CephsInAction)”.
Contributions ranging from controlled laboratory experiments up to field observations which may have a direct relation to physiology are expected. Topics to be included will contribute to:
• Anatomical studies which clearly inform understanding of physiology;
• Comparative physiology;
• Structure and physiology of the hepatopancreas/digestive gland/anterior and posterior salivary glands;
• Molecular biological studies that increase understanding of digestive tract physiology;
• Control mechanisms, e.g.: central nervous system, gastric ganglia, enteric nervous system, hormones;
• Regulation of food intake;
• Development of the digestive tract in relation to function;
• Basic aspects of cephalopod digestive tract motility, secretion and absorption in health and disease conditions;
• Biomarkers (particularly non-invasive) of digestive tract function

We highly encourage contributions in the format of original research as well as mini reviews, but welcome all other Frontiers article types including methods or hypothesis and theory.


Keywords: Cephalopods, Digestive system, Feeding and Physiology, 3Rs


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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