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In all insects, olfaction is the primary sensory modality. Changes in the environment and in the animal’s habits can lead to changes in the olfactory system. I am using a comparative approach between the generalist Drosophila melanogaster and its sibling specialist D. sechellia to study how odor information is coded and how this code has evolved. We previously found that the adaptation of the specialist fly D. sechellia to its sole host, the toxic noni fruit, is paralleled in the adult by changes in its olfactory system and its behavior. Here by using direct observation of larval behavioral responses I want to investigate if also the larval stage of D. sechellia prefers the odors of its sole food substrate. In terms of cell numbers, the larval sensory system is simpler, with no more than 21 olfactory sensory neurons. However, the two stages share a similar design of sensory projections and central pathway. With such a simple olfactory circuitry, it is particularly promising to understand how odor information from ecologically relevant sources is decoded and how evolution can act in changing the olfactory system.
last updated on 2011-09-26