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      Insects Can Count: Sensory Basis of Host Discrimination in Parasitoid Wasps Revealed


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          The solitary parasitoid Leptopilina heterotoma is one of the best studied organisms concerning the ecology, behaviour and physiology of host discrimination. Behavioural evidence shows that L. heterotoma uses its ovipositor to discriminate not only between parasitized and unparasitized Drosophila melanogaster larvae, but also to discriminate between hosts with different numbers of parasitoid eggs. The existing knowledge about how and when the parasitoid marks the host motivated us to unravel the chemosensory basis of host discrimination by L. heterotoma that allows it to choose the “best” host available. In this paper we report on electrophysiological recordings of multi-neural responses from the single taste sensillum on the tip of the unpaired ovipositor valve. We stimulated this sensillum with haemolymph of unparasitized, one-time-parasitized and two-times-parasitized Drosophila larvae. We demonstrate for the first time that quantitative characteristics of the neural responses to these haemolymph samples differed significantly, implying that host discrimination is encoded by taste receptor neurons in the multi-neuron coeloconic ovipositor sensillum. The activity of three of the six neurons present in the sensillum suffices for host discrimination and support the hypothesis that L. heterotoma females employ an ensemble code of parasitization status of the host.

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          Most cited references11

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          Insect odor and taste receptors.

          Insect odor and taste receptors are highly sensitive detectors of food, mates, and oviposition sites. Following the identification of the first insect odor and taste receptors in Drosophila melanogaster, these receptors were identified in a number of other insects, including the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles gambiae; the silk moth, Bombyx mori; and the tobacco budworm, Heliothis virescens. The chemical specificities of many of the D. melanogaster receptors, as well as a few of the A. gambiae and B. mori receptors, have now been determined either by analysis of deletion mutants or by ectopic expression in in vivo or heterologous expression systems. Here we discuss recent advances in our understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of odor and taste coding in insects.
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            Superparasitism as an adaptive strategy for insect parasitoids.

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              Physiology of a primary chemoreceptor unit.


                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                14 October 2015
                : 10
                : 10
                : e0138045
                [1 ]Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari ed Ambientali, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy
                [3 ]Laboratory for Chemical Ecology and Insect Behavior, Department of Entomology and Acarology, ESALQ, University of Sao Paolo, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil
                AgroParisTech, FRANCE
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: JCvL SR JJAvL. Performed the experiments: SR. Analyzed the data: JJAvL SR JCvL HMS. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: JJAvL HMS. Wrote the paper: SR JCvL JJAvL HMS.

                Copyright @ 2015

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

                : 12 May 2015
                : 24 August 2015
                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 0, Pages: 11
                This work was supported by Wageningen University ( http://www.wageningenur.nl/en.htm) and Università Politecnica delle Marche.
                Research Article
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