The effects of unilateral antennectomy on the flight behaviour of male Heliothis virescens in a pheromone plume


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Abstract .Unilaterally antennectomized Heliothis virescens (F.) males flying close to the central axis of a plume of sex pheromone display no significant differences in behaviour compared to sham‐operated males in course angles, track angles, airspeed and groundspeed. This demonstrates that right/left antennal information is not necessary for normal orientation movements in response to pheromone, but rather that it is ‘blended’ within the moth's central nervous system before pheromone‐mediated manoeuvres are made. However, some unilaterally antennectomized moths (36%) make repetitive, asymmetrical, saw‐tooth‐shaped tracks during pheromone‐mediated upwind progress, whereas control moths never make such tracks. Unilaterally antennectomized moths made such tracks on the side of the plume contralateral to the missing antenna. We hypothesize that these occasional asymmetrical tracks in unilaterally ablated males are the result of reiterative asymmetrical pheromone stimulation of a higher probability on track legs going toward rather than away from the long axis of the plume on males with a single antenna remaining on the ‘away from axis’ side. Combined with a greater propensity for treated moths to lock onto the plume away from the central axis on one side rather than the other, repetitive successive asymmetrical track legs (resulting in a saw‐tooth‐shaped track) are commonly observed in these moths. Control moths do also make asymmetric successive track legs but they rarely are repeated and thus are not readily observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-506
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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