Original Article


, Volume 116, Issue 2, pp 77-83

First online:

The proboscis of eye-frequenting and piercing Lepidoptera (Insecta)

  • Wilhelm BüttikerAffiliated withNaturhistorisches Museum
  • , Harald W. KrennAffiliated withInstitut für Zoologie, Universität Wien
  • , John F. PutterillAffiliated withPathology Section, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute

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The external structures of the proboscis are investigated in eye-frequenting species of Noctuidae, Geometridae and Pyralidae by means of scanning electron microscopy. They are compared with non-eye-frequenting representatives of these families. In Noctuidae, highly specialized fruit-piercing, skin-piercing blood-sucking, and sweat-feeding representatives have been included. All hemi- and eulachryphagous species have a soft proboscis tip which is characterized by few sensilla and strongly elongated, dentate plates of the dorsal galeal linkage. The latter structures leave broad gaps between them that lead into the food canal at the tip. This arrangement permits the uptake of fluid suspensions such as lachrymal fluid, wound exudates and pus. The modified dorsal galeal linkage is regarded as an adaptation for this highly derived feeding habit. The rough surface of the proboscis is likely to cause irritation and possible mechanical damage to the conjunctiva and cornea which results in an increased lachrymal flow and production of pus. In contrast to fruit-piercing and skin-piercing Noctuidae, there are no erectile structures on the proboscis of eye-frequenting species.—The comparison with related non-eye-frequenting species demonstrates that the particular morphology of the proboscis tip in lachryphagous moths evolved convergently in different families of Leipdoptera.