ABSTRACT: The aim of the present study was to determine what impact phylogeny and life history might have on the coding of odours in the brain. Using three species of hawk moths (Sphingidae) and two species of owlet moths (Noctuidae), we visualized neural activity patterns in the antennal lobe, the first olfactory neuropil in insects, evoked by a set of ecologically relevant plant volatiles. Our results suggest that even between the two phylogenetically distant moth families, basic olfactory coding features are similar. But we also found different coding strategies in the moths' antennal lobe; namely, more specific patterns for chemically similar odorants in the two noctuid species than in the three sphingid species tested. This difference demonstrates the impact of the phylogenetic distance between species from different families despite some parallel life history traits found in both families. Furthermore, pronounced differences in larval and adult diet among the sphingids did not translate into differences in the olfactory code; instead, the three species had almost identical coding patterns.
Journal of Experimental Biology 05/2012; 215(Pt 9):1542-51. · 3.00 Impact Factor