Dataset Information


Early quality assessment lessens pheromone specificity in a moth.

ABSTRACT: Pheromone orientation in moths is an exemplar of olfactory acuity. To avoid heterospecific mating, males respond to female-produced blends with high specificity and temporal resolution. A finely tuned sensory to projection neuron network secures specificity, and this network is thought to assess pheromone quality continually during orientation. We tested whether male moths do indeed evaluate each pheromone encounter and surprisingly found that male European corn borer moths instead generalize across successive encounters. Although initially highly ratio specific, once "locked on" to the pheromone plume the acceptable ratio can vary widely, and even unattractive blends can become attractive. We further found that this "mental shortcut" may be a consequence of the fact that sensory neurons exposed to frequent encounters do not reliably encode blend ratios. Neurons tuned to either of the two pheromone components adapt differentially in plumes containing the preferred blend ratio (97:3) and cause the olfactory sensory signal to "evolve," even in narrowly tuned pheromonal circuits. However, apparently the brain interprets these shifting signals as invariant "gestalts." Generalization in pheromone perception may mitigate stabilizing selection and allow introgression between sympatric strains, such as in the European corn borer, that otherwise appear isolated by pheromonal differences. Generalization may also be important in responses to general odorants, as circuits underlying these display vast sensitivity differences, complex interactions, and temporal intricacies.


PROVIDER: S-EPMC3645593 | BioStudies | 2013-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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