Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae

Eilers E, Talarico G, Hansson BS, Hilker M, Reinecke A (2012)
PLoS ONE 7(7): e41357.

Journal Article | Published | English

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Introduction Below ground orientation in insects relies mainly on olfaction and taste. The economic impact of plant root feeding scarab beetle larvae gave rise to numerous phylogenetic and ecological studies. Detailed knowledge of the sensory capacities of these larvae is nevertheless lacking. Here, we present an atlas of the sensory organs on larval head appendages of Melolontha melolontha. Our ultrastructural and electrophysiological investigations allow annotation of functions to various sensory structures. Results Three out of 17 ascertained sensillum types have olfactory, and 7 gustatory function. These sensillum types are unevenly distributed between antennae and palps. The most prominent chemosensory organs are antennal pore plates that in total are innervated by approximately one thousand olfactory sensory neurons grouped into functional units of three-to-four. In contrast, only two olfactory sensory neurons innervate one sensillum basiconicum on each of the palps. Gustatory sensilla chaetica dominate the apices of all head appendages, while only the palps bear thermo-/hygroreceptors. Electrophysiological responses to CO2, an attractant for many root feeders, are exclusively observed in the antennae. Out of 54 relevant volatile compounds, various alcohols, acids, amines, esters, aldehydes, ketones and monoterpenes elicit responses in antennae and palps. All head appendages are characterized by distinct olfactory response profiles that are even enantiomer specific for some compounds. Conclusions Chemosensory capacities in M. melolontha larvae are as highly developed as in many adult insects. We interpret the functional sensory units underneath the antennal pore plates as cryptic sensilla placodea and suggest that these perceive a broad range of secondary plant metabolites together with CO2. Responses to olfactory stimulation of the labial and maxillary palps indicate that typical contact chemo-sensilla have a dual gustatory and olfactory function.
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Eilers E, Talarico G, Hansson BS, Hilker M, Reinecke A. Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(7): e41357.
Eilers, E., Talarico, G., Hansson, B. S., Hilker, M., & Reinecke, A. (2012). Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae. PLoS ONE, 7(7): e41357.
Eilers, E., Talarico, G., Hansson, B. S., Hilker, M., and Reinecke, A. (2012). Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae. PLoS ONE 7:e41357.
Eilers, E., et al., 2012. Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae. PLoS ONE, 7(7): e41357.
E. Eilers, et al., “Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae”, PLoS ONE, vol. 7, 2012, : e41357.
Eilers, E., Talarico, G., Hansson, B.S., Hilker, M., Reinecke, A.: Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae. PLoS ONE. 7, : e41357 (2012).
Eilers, Elisabeth, Talarico, Giovanni, Hansson, Bill S., Hilker, Monika, and Reinecke, Andreas. “Sensing the underground – ultrastructure and function of sensory organs in root-feeding Melolontha melolontha (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) larvae”. PLoS ONE 7.7 (2012): e41357.
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