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The Role of Olfactory Cues for the Search Behavior of a Specialist and Generalist Butterfly
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3187-3555
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Functional Morphology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9190-6873
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Ethology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3445-3759
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Animal Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6379-7905
2015 (English)In: Journal of insect behavior, ISSN 0892-7553, E-ISSN 1572-8889, Vol. 28, no 1, 77-87 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Searching for resources is often a challenging task, especially for small organisms such as insects. Complex stimuli have to be extracted from the environment and translated into a relevant behavioral output. A first step in this process is to investigate the relative roles of the different senses during search for various resources. While the role of olfaction is well documented in nocturnal moths, the olfactory abilities of the closely related diurnal butterflies are poorly explored. Here we investigated how olfactory information is used in the search for host plants and asked if these abilities varied with levels of stimulus complexity. Thus, we tested two nymphalid butterfly species with divergent host plant range in a two-choice olfactometer testing different combinations of host and non-host plants. The experiments show both the monophagous Aglais urticae and the polyphagous Polygonia c-album could navigate towards an odor source, but this ability varied with context. While mated females exhibited a preference for their host plant, unmated females of both species did not show a preference for host plant cues. Furthermore, both species showed inabilities to make fine-tuned decisions between hosts. We conclude that olfactory cues are important for butterflies to navigate towards targets. We argue that there are limitations on how much information can be extracted from host volatiles. These results are discussed in the light of neural processing limitations and degree of host plant specialization, suggesting the necessity of other sensory modalities to sharpen the decision process and facilitate the final oviposition event.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 28, no 1, 77-87 p.
Keyword [en]
Olfaction, Lepidoptera, search behavior, information processing hypothesis, host plant specialization
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-112330DOI: 10.1007/s10905-014-9482-0ISI: 000347688400008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-112330DiVA: diva2:778819
Available from: 2015-01-12 Created: 2015-01-12 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Mechanistic aspects of host plant preference in butterflies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mechanistic aspects of host plant preference in butterflies
2012 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Searching and locating resources is essential for survival. In herbivorous insects search behavior is conducted on several scales, requiring input and integration of information from different sensory modalities. Even though it is known that vision, olfaction and contact-chemoreception are employed to detect, navigate towards and evaluate resources their exact contribution is poorly known. To shed light on the importance of the different sensory modalities, one has to start with separating the stimuli of different quality from each other and to inspect them under controlled conditions. Olfactory cues are blends of volatile compounds emitted by plants that are used by many Lepidoptera and other insects to navigate towards targets. Despite this knowledge, butterflies are generally considered to rely mainly on visual cues. Following several indications that butterflies also use olfactory cues in search for targets, this thesis investigated the olfactory capabilities of two nymphalid butterfly species with different degrees of host plant specializations. In Paper I optical imaging studies on the primary olfactory center, the antennal lobe, revealed a well developed olfactory system. The two species responded similarly to the tested odorants, but the specialist butterfly Aglais urticae seemed to respond more discriminatively towards its host plant Urtica dioica than the generalist species Polygonia c-album. In Paper II we used a behavioral assay to verify the assumption that the two butterfly species can use olfactory cues to navigate towards odor targets. The two tested species differed in their responses in both studies with respect to their ecology. Inferior discrimination abilities of the generalist species are discussed in the light of possible neural processing constraints.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2012. 24 p.
National Category
Ecology Zoology
Research subject
Animal Ecology; Ethology; Zoology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-84504 (URN)
Available from: 2013-01-22 Created: 2012-12-24 Last updated: 2015-01-12Bibliographically approved
2. Evolutionary and mechanistic aspects of insect host plant preference
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Evolutionary and mechanistic aspects of insect host plant preference
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Plant feeding insects comprise about 25% of all animal species on earth and play an important role in all ecosystems. Although we understand that their association with plants is a key-factor driving the diversification in this group, we still have large gaps in our knowledge of the underlying processes of this relationship. Female choice of host plant is an important event in the insect life-cycle, as it is a major determinant of the larval food plant. In this Thesis I studied different aspects of insect host plant choice and used butterflies from the family Nymphalidae as my study system. I found that butterflies have a well developed olfactory system and that they use odors when searching for food or host plants. However, the information obtained from the odor of host plants does not seem to be sufficient for the studied species to make a distinction between plants of different qualities. Interestingly, even when in full contact with the leaf they do not make optimal decisions. I show for example that a sub-optimal female choice may be mitigated by larval ability to cope with unfavorable situations. Moreover, species that utilize a broader set of host plants may not be very well adapted to all the hosts they use, but at the same time they may survive in areas where there is only a subset of the plants available. Lastly, differences in the evolution of life-history traits between species can account for differences in how each species realizes its lifestyle. Thus, by incorporating findings on mechanisms of host plant choice with the ecological and evolutionary context of a species, our ability to explain the dynamics of host plant choice and insect-plant interactions can be improved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2016. 25 p.
Keyword
host plant choice, host range, diet breadth, butterfly, oviposition, specialist, generalist, insect-plant interaction, search behavior, olfaction, decision making, evolution, parasite-host interaction
National Category
Evolutionary Biology Ecology Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-128488 (URN)978-91-7649-381-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-05-20, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2016-04-27 Created: 2016-03-30 Last updated: 2017-02-24Bibliographically approved

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