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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2010 Dec;196(12):947-56. doi: 10.1007/s00359-010-0578-5. Epub 2010 Sep 7.

Antennae in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera, Sphingidae) mediate abdominal flexion in response to mechanical stimuli.

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Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-1800, USA.


Flying insects rely on the integration of feedback signals from multiple sensory modalities. Thus, in addition to the visual input, mechanosensory information from antennae is crucial for stable flight in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta. However, the nature of compensatory reflexes mediated by mechanoreceptors on the antennae is unknown. In this study we describe an abdominal flexion response mediated by the antennal mechanosensory input during mechanical body rotations. Such reflexive abdominal motions lead to shifts in the animal's center of mass, and therefore changes in flight trajectory. Moths respond with abdominal flexion both to visual and mechanical rotations, but the mechanical response depends on the presence of the mass of the flagellum. In addition, the mechanically mediated flexion response is about 200° out of phase with the visual response and adds linearly to it. Phase-shifting feedback signals in such a manner can lead to a more stable behavioral output response when the animal is faced with turbulent perturbations to the flight path.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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