The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a widely used model for genetic dissection of animal behaviors. Despite extensive technical advances in imaging methods, it remains challenging to visualize and quantify C. elegans behaviors in three-dimensional (3-D) natural environments. Here we developed an innovative 3-D imaging method that enables quantification of C. elegans behavior in 3-D environments. Furthermore, for the first time, we characterized 3-D-specific behavioral phenotypes of mutant worms that have defects in head movement or mechanosensation. This approach allowed us to reveal previously unknown functions of genes in behavioral regulation. We expect that our 3-D imaging method will facilitate new investigations into genetic basis of animal behaviors in natural 3-D environments.
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