Arthropod Infochemistry

Insects rely on volatile chemical signals to locate, assess and chose hosts, mates or other resources, but also to avoid enemies. Disentangling complex natural odorant blends to identify behaviourally active compounds is part of the classical chemo-ecological research in our lab.

In field settings, relevant signals need to be discriminated against diverse odour sources. We aim to understand which subsets of natural odorant blends make up olfactory signals and how these interact with habitat odours or intraspecific pheromone signalling.

In this context, we investigate oviposition preference, resource location, mate choice and the sensory basis for associated behaviour in Manduca hawkmoths and Drosophilid flies as model insects. We also explore olfactory communication in arthropods from different phylogenetic lineage and ecological background, e.g. land-living crabs, bristletails, and soil-living rhizophagous scarab beetle larvae.

We pursue our projects with state of the art volatile sampling and gas chromatographic techniques. Physiologically active odorants are identified by electroantennographic detection. Single sensillum recordings reveal sensitivity, specificity and organisation of the olfactory input to the brain. The behavioural function of chemical cues is assessed in wind tunnel, flight cage, diverse arena assays or in the field.