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J Exp Biol. 2005 Feb;208(Pt 4):595-601.

Her odours make him deaf: crossmodal modulation of olfaction and hearing in a male moth.

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  • 1Department of Ecology, Lund University, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden. niels.skals@biology.sdu.dk


All animals have to cope with sensory conflicts arising from simultaneous input of incongruent data to different sensory modalities. Nocturnal activity in moths includes mate-finding behaviour by odour detection and bat predator avoidance by acoustic detection. We studied male moths that were simultaneously exposed to female sex pheromones indicating the presence of a potential mate, and artificial bat cries simulating a predation risk. We show that stimulation of one sensory modality can modulate the response to information from another, suggesting that behavioural thresholds are dynamic and depend on the behavioural context. The tendency to respond to bat sounds decreased as the quality and/or the amount of sex pheromone increased. The behavioural threshold for artificial bat cries increased by up to 40 dB when male moths where simultaneously exposed to female sex pheromones. As a consequence, a male moth that has detected the pheromone plume from a female will not try to evade an approaching bat until the bat gets close, hence incurring increased predation risk. Our results suggest that male moths' reaction to sensory conflicts is a trade-off depending on the relative intensity of the input to CNS from the two sensory modalities.

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