Olfaction, Insect

  • Dietrich Schneider
Part of the Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience book series (REN)


Insect olfaction, like vertebrate olfaction, is a morphologically and physiologically well-defined sensory modality: porous, hollow, cuticular structures (hairs, pegs, or plates) are innervated by the dendrites of sensory nerve cells specialized for the perception of airborne chemicals. Such receptor miniorgans (sensilla) are composed of (1) the formative cells that secrete the cuticle surface of the organ and (2) one to many receptor cells with their distal dendritic processes (Ø 0.1–0.5 μm) and neuntes (Ø 0.1–0.5 μm) that connect directly to central neurons. The dendrites are unbranched or branched, contain in their finest form a minimum of one microtubule, and are bathed by the receptor (sensillum) lymph. The receptor cells respond with medium to high sensitivity and specificity to smaller or wider ranges of chemical stimuli. In terrestrial insects, the perception of gaseous (olfactory) stimuli is clearly distinguished from gustation of mostly aqueous (salt, sugar, etc.) stimuli of much higher concentration reaching the dendrite through the tip opening of specialized taste hair sensilla.


Terrestrial Insect Odor Molecule Antennal Nerve Airborne Chemical Sensillum Trichodeum 
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Further reading

  1. Boeckh J, Ernst K-D (1983): Olfactory food and mate recognition. In: Neuroethology and Behavioral Physiology, Huber F, Markl H, eds. Berlin: Springer-VerlagGoogle Scholar
  2. Kaissling KE (1985): Chemo-electrical transduction in insect olfactory receptors. Ann Rev Neurosci 7 Google Scholar
  3. Schneider D (1984): Insect olfaction: Our research endeavor. In: Foundations of Sensory Science, Dawson WW, Enoch JM, eds. Berlin: Springer-VerlagGoogle Scholar
  4. Steinbrecht RA (1984): Chemo-, hygro-, and thermo-receptors. In: Biology of the Integument, Vol I, Invertebrates, Bereiter-Hahn J, Matolsky AG, Richards KS, eds. Berlin: Springer-VerlagGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Boston, Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dietrich Schneider

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