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Captive breeding for thousands of years has impaired olfactory functions in silkmoths
Date:11/21/2013

This news release is available in German.

Silk: A natural product for 5000 years

The silkmoth Bombyx mori, originally native to China, was domesticated about 5000 years ago. Its larvae, silkworms, enclose themselves in a cocoon when they enter the pupa phase. They spin their cocoon from one single silk thread, which is several hundred meters long. For silk production, the cocoon − together with the pupa inside − is boiled and the silk filament is then unraveled. Special breeding moths are kept for silk farming. After mating female moths lay several hundred eggs from which the new silkworms hatch.

In the 1950s Bombyx mori became a model organism in modern olfactory research. The sex pheromone bombykol, released by female silkmoths, was the first insect pheromone to be characterized chemically. Bombyx mori males' are highly sensitive to even a few molecules of the female attractant, and the sensilla on their antennae are easily accessible for electrodes. This made them an ideal model system for electrophysiological measurements to analyze their olfactory functions. As early as 1956, olfactory receptor responses, so-called electroantennograms, were recorded on Bombyx mori.

Still responsive to pheromones, but not to environmental odors

Scientists from the Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and their collaborators from Japan have found that Bombyx mori is now considerably impaired in its olfactory functions due to 5000 years of captive breeding. The moth's perception of environmental odors, which may lead it to its exclusive host plant, the mulberry tree, has been significantly reduced. This was demonstrated when their responses to od
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Contact: Dr. Silke Sachse
ssachse@ice.mpg.de
49-364-157-1416
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Source:Eurekalert  

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Captive breeding for thousands of years has impaired olfactory functions in silkmoths
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