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Aim-then-shoot anemotaxis involved in the hopping approach of potato tuberworm moth Phthorimaea operculella toward a sex pheromone source



Male moths locate conspecific females by pheromone-induced upwind flight maintained by detecting a visual flow, termed optomotor anemotaxis. Their behavioural pattern is characterized by an upwind surge in response to a pheromone stimulus and crosswind casting after odour loss, which is considered to be reset and restarted on receipt of another pheromone pulse. However, pheromone-stimulated males of the potato tuberworm moth Phthorimaea operculella exhibit a series of short and straight intermittent flights, or hops, when moving upwind. It is unclear whether they navigate by employing the same behavioural pattern and wind detection mechanism as that used by flying moths. To analyze odour-modulated anemotaxis in male potato tuberworm moths, a flat wind tunnel is constructed to give regular odour stimuli to an insect regardless of its location. Moths are subjected to pheromone pulses of different frequencies to test whether they show a behavioural pattern that is reset and restarted by a pheromone pulse. Moths on the ground are also subjected to crosswind shear to examine their detection of wind direction. Path analyses reveal that males surge upwind when they receive a pheromone pulse and exhibit casting by successive hops when they lose odour. This behavioural pattern appears to be similar to that of flying moths. When the direction of the airflow is switched orthogonally, males adjust their course angle accordingly when they are on the ground. It is suggested that, instead of optomotor anemotaxis, this ‘aim-then-shoot’ system aids the detection of wind direction, possibly by mechanosensory means.