Learning, odour preference and flower foraging in moths

Cunningham, J. P., Moore, C. J., Zalucki, M. P., & West, S. A. (2004) Learning, odour preference and flower foraging in moths. Journal of Experimental Biology, 207(1), pp. 87-94.

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Abstract

Floral volatiles play a major role in plant–insect communication. We examined the influence of two volatiles, phenylacetaldehyde andα -pinene, on the innate and learnt foraging behaviour of the moth Helicoverpa armigera. In dual-choice wind tunnel tests, adult moths flew upwind towards both volatiles, with a preference for phenylacetaldehyde. When exposure to either of these volatiles was paired with a feeding stimulus (sucrose), all moths preferred the learnt odour in the preference test. This change in preference was not seen when moths were exposed to the odour without a feeding stimulus. The learnt preference for the odour was reduced when moths were left unfed for 24 h before the preference test.

We tested whether moths could discriminate between flowers that differed in a single volatile component. Moths were trained to feed on flowers that were odour-enhanced using either phenylacetaldehyde or α-pinene. Choice tests were then carried out in an outdoor flight cage, using flowers enhanced with either volatile. Moths showed a significant preference for the flower type on which they were trained. Moths that were conditioned on flowers that were not odour-enhanced showed no preference for either of the odour-enhanced flower types. The results imply that moths may be discriminating among odour profiles of individual flowers from the same species. We discuss this behaviour within the context of nectar foraging in moths and odour signalling by flowering plants.

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85 citations in Scopus
82 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 60988
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: Articles free to read on journal website after 6 months
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.00733
ISSN: 1477-9145
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > ECOLOGY (060200) > Behavioural Ecology (060201)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > ZOOLOGY (060800) > Animal Behaviour (060801)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 The Company of Biologists Ltd.
Deposited On: 04 Jul 2013 00:00
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2017 20:01

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