Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The first insects were not yet able to smell well

27.03.2014

Odorant receptors of recent insects evolved long after insects migrated from water to land.


Jumping bristletail Lepismachilis y-signata

Alexander Schneeberg


Firebrat Thermobia domestica

Sascha Bucks / Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

An insect’s sense of smell is vital to its survival. Only if it can trace even tiny amounts of odor molecules is it is able to find food sources, communicate with conspecifics, or avoid enemies.

According to scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, many proteins involved in the highly sensitive odor perception of insects emerged rather late in the evolutionary process.

The very complex olfactory system of modern insects is therefore not an adaptation to a terrestrial environment when ancient insects migrated from water to land, but rather an adaptation that appeared when insects developed the ability to fly. The results were published in the Open Access Journal eLife (eLife, March 26, 2014, doi: 10.7554/elife.02115)

Many insect species employ three families of receptor proteins in order to perceive thousands of different environmental odors. Among them are the olfactory receptors. They form a functional complex with another protein, the so-called olfactory receptor co-receptor, which enables insects to smell the tiniest amounts of odor molecules in their environment very rapidly.

Crustaceans and insects share a common ancestor. Since crustaceans do not have olfactory receptors, previously scientists assumed that these receptors evolved as an adaptation of prehistoric insects to a terrestrial life. This hypothesis is also based on the assumption that for the ancestors of recent insects, the ability to detect odor molecules in the air rather than dissolved in water was of vital importance.

Early research on insect olfactory receptors focused entirely on insects with wings. Ewald Große-Wilde and Bill S. Hansson and their colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, have now taken a closer look at the olfactory system of wingless insects, which − in evolutionary terms − are older than winged insects: the jumping bristletail Lepismachilis y-signata and the firebrat Thermobia domestica, which are both wingless, as well as the leaf insect Phyllium siccifolium, which is winged and was used as a control. As all three studied insect species emerged at different times in insect evolution, the scientists wanted to track the historical development of olfactory receptors.

Christine Mißbach, first author of the study, analyzed the active genes in the insect antennae where the olfactory receptors are located and describes her discovery this way: “Astonishingly, the firebrat, which is more closely related to flying insects, employs several co-receptors, while the odorant receptors themselves are absent.”

However, the researchers did not find any evidence for an olfactory system which is based on odorant receptors in the most basal insect, the jumping bristletail.

“According to these findings, the receptor family which is important for olfaction in recent insects evolved long after the migration of insects from water to land,” Ewald Große-Wilde summarizes. The researchers are convinced that the main olfactory receptors evolved independently of the co-receptor long after insects had adapted to terrestrial life. They hope that further analyses will reveal why some insect species have only co-receptors, no main receptors, and also clarify the function these co-receptors have on their own. [AO]

Original Publication:
Missbach, C., Dweck, H., Vogel, H., Vilcinskas, A., Stensmyr, M. C., Hansson, B. S., Grosse-Wilde, E. (2014). Evolution of insect olfactory receptors. eLife, doi:10.7554/elife.02115.
http://elife.elifesciences.org/content/3/e02115

Further Information:
Dr. Ewald Große-Wilde, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, E-Mail grosse-wilde@ice.mpg.de

Contact and Picture Requests:
Angela Overmeyer M.A., Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07743 Jena, +49 3641 57-2110, overmeyer@ice.mpg.de

Download of high-resolution images via http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/735.html

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.ice.mpg.de/ext/1065.html?&L=0

Angela Overmeyer | Max-Planck-Institut

Further reports about: Ecology Max-Planck-Institut insect insects odorant olfactory proteins receptor smell species terrestrial

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Faster fish thanks to nMLF neurons
25.07.2014 | Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried

nachricht A glimpse into the genetic basis of schizophrenia
25.07.2014 | Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, München

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

9th European Wood-Based Panel Symposium 2014 – meeting point for the wood-based material branch

24.07.2014 | Event News

“Lens on Life” - Artists and Scientists Explore Cell Divison

08.07.2014 | Event News

First International Conference on Consumer Research | ICCR 2014: Early bird deadline July 31, 2014

08.07.2014 | Event News

 
Latest News

Parched West is using up underground water, UCI, NASA find

25.07.2014 | Earth Sciences

ORNL study reveals new characteristics of complex oxide surfaces

25.07.2014 | Materials Sciences

New mass map of a distant galaxy cluster is the most precise yet

25.07.2014 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>