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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Nov 20;281(1774):20132582. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2582. Print 2014 Jan 7.

Anatomical and functional analysis of domestication effects on the olfactory system of the silkmoth Bombyx mori.

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Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, , Jena, Germany, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, , Tsukuba, Japan, Department of Agricultural and Environmental Biology, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, , Tokyo, Japan.


The silkmoth Bombyx mori is the main producer of silk worldwide and has furthermore become a model organism in biological research, especially concerning chemical communication. However, the impact domestication might have had on the silkmoth's olfactory sense has not yet been investigated. Here, we show that the pheromone detection system in B. mori males when compared with their wild ancestors Bombyx mandarina seems to have been preserved, while the perception of environmental odorants in both sexes of domesticated silkmoths has been degraded. In females, this physiological impairment was mirrored by a clear reduction in olfactory sensillum numbers. Neurophysiological experiments with hybrids between wild and domesticated silkmoths suggest that the female W sex chromosome, so far known to have the sole function of determining femaleness, might be involved in the detection of environmental odorants. Moreover, the coding of odorants in the brain, which is usually similar among closely related moths, differs strikingly between B. mori and B. mandarina females. These results indicate that domestication has had a strong impact on odour detection and processing in the olfactory model species B. mori.


Bombyx mandarina; Bombyx mori; W chromosome; domestication; olfactory coding; olfactory sensilla

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