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J Insect Physiol. 2012 Feb;58(2):270-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2011.11.018. Epub 2011 Dec 3.

Olfaction in dragonflies: electrophysiological evidence.

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Dipartimento di Biologia Cellulare e Ambientale, Via Elce di Sotto, 06123 Perugia, Italy.


The problem of olfaction in Paleoptera (Odonata, Ephemeroptera) cannot be considered fully elucidated until now. These insects have been traditionally considered anosmic, because their brain lacks glomerular antennal lobes, typically involved in Neoptera odor perception. In order to understand if the presumed coeloconic olfactory receptors described on the antennal flagellum of adult Odonata are really functioning, we performed an electrophysiological investigation with electroantennogram (EAG) and single cell recordings (SCR), using Libellula depressa L. (Odonata, Libellulidae) as a model species. Odors representing different chemical classes such as (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate (acetate ester), (E)-2-hexenal, octanal (aldehydes), (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol (alcohol), propionic acid, butyric acid (carboxylic acids), and 1,4-diaminobutane (amine) were tested. Most of the tested chemicals elicited depolarizing EAG responses in both male and female antennae; SCR show unambiguously for the first time the presence of olfactory neurons in the antennae of L. depressa and strongly support the olfactory function of the coeloconic sensilla located on the antennal flagellum of this species. Electrophysiological activity may not necessarily indicate behavioral activity, and the biological role of olfactory responses in Odonata must be determined in behavioral bioassays. This study represents a starting point for further behavioral, electrophysiological, neuroanatomical and molecular investigation on Odonata olfaction, a research field particularly interesting owing to the basal position of Paleoptera, also for tracing evolutionary trends in insect olfaction.

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