Normal glomerular organization of the antennal lobes is not necessary for odor-modulated flight in female moths

M. A. Willis, M. A. Butler, L. P. Tolbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


A prominent hypothesis for the function of the glomerular structures in the primary olfactory neuropil of many groups of vertebrate and invertebrate animals is that they enable the processing and coding of information about the chemical compounds that compose complex odors. Previous studies have indicated that various degrees of glomerulus formation in the antennal lobes of the brain of the moth Manduca sexta can be effected by reducing the number of olfactory sensory axons that grow from the antenna into the antennal lobe during metamorphosis. To test the hypothesis that the presence of glomerular structure is necessary to process and identify odors, we substantially reduced, by surgery, the number of antennal segments in developing moths and upon metamorphosis we observed and quantified behavioral responses known to be elicited by odors. Intact and lesioned adult female moths were challenged to fly upwind to the source of an attractive host-plant odor in a wind tunnel. Some of the moths that had developed with reduced olfactory input flew upwind to the odor source. The flight behavior of these individuals was similar to the odor-mediated flight typically observed in moths that had developed normally. Histological analysis of the moths' antennal lobes revealed that the lobes of more than half of the respondents that had been lesioned during development lacked normal glomerular organization. The neuropil of these abnormally developed antennal lobes was mostly aglomerular, but with a few isolated, clearly abnormal glomerulus-like structures. This suggests either that even a few abnormal glomeruli are sufficient to mediate this specific behavior or that "canonical" glomerular organization per se is not necessary for this odor-mediated behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Manduca sexta
  • Olfactory behavior
  • Olfactory glomerul

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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