Contact chemoreception in feeding by phytophagous insects

Annu Rev Entomol. 2003;48:455-84. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.48.091801.112629. Epub 2002 Jun 4.


Gustatory receptors associated with feeding in phytophagous insects are broadly categorized as phagostimulatory or deterrent. No phytophagous insect is known that tastes all its essential nutrients, and the ability to discriminate between nutrients is limited. The insects acquire a nutritional balance largely "adventitiously" because leaves have an appropriate chemical composition. Sugars are the most important phagostimulants. Plant secondary compounds are most often deterrent but stimulate phagostimulatory cells if they serve as host-indicating sign stimuli, or if they are sequestered for defense or used as pheromone precursors. The stimulating effects of chemicals are greatly affected by other chemicals in mixtures like those to which the sensilla are normally exposed. Host plant selection depends on the balance of phagostimulatory and deterrent inputs with, in some oligophagous and monophagous species, a dominating role of a host-related chemical. Evolution of phytophagy has probably involved a change in emphasis in the gustatory system, not fundamentally new developments. The precise role of the gustatory systems remains unclear. In grasshoppers, it probably governs food selection and the amounts eaten, but in caterpillars there is some evidence that central feedbacks are also involved in regulating the amount eaten.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Diet
  • Eating / physiology
  • Feedback
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Plants / chemistry