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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2006 Apr;192(4):431-7. Epub 2005 Dec 28.

The relative importance of olfaction and vision in a diurnal and a nocturnal hawkmoth.

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Vision Group Department of Cell and Organism Biology, Lund University, Helgonavägen 3, 223 62 Lund, Sweden.


Nectar-feeding animals can use vision and olfaction to find rewarding flowers and different species may give different weight to the two sensory modalities. We have studied how a diurnal or nocturnal lifestyle affects the weight given to vision and olfaction. We tested naïve hawkmoths of two species in a wind tunnel, presenting an odour source and a visual stimulus. Although the two species belong to the same subfamily of sphingids, the Macroglossinae, their behaviour was quite different. The nocturnal Deilephila elpenor responded preferably to the odour while the diurnal Macroglossum stellatarum strongly favoured the visual stimulus. Since a nocturnal lifestyle is ancestral for sphingids, the diurnal species, M. stellatarum, has evolved from nocturnal moths that primarily used olfaction. During bright daylight visual cues may have became more important than odour.

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