Ground plan of the insect mushroom body: functional and evolutionary implications

J Comp Neurol. 2009 Mar 20;513(3):265-291. doi: 10.1002/cne.21948.


In most insects with olfactory glomeruli, each side of the brain possesses a mushroom body equipped with calyces supplied by olfactory projection neurons. Kenyon cells providing dendrites to the calyces supply a pedunculus and lobes divided into subdivisions supplying outputs to other brain areas. It is with reference to these components that most functional studies are interpreted. However, mushroom body structures are diverse, adapted to different ecologies, and likely to serve various functions. In insects whose derived life styles preclude the detection of airborne odorants, there is a loss of the antennal lobes and attenuation or loss of the calyces. Such taxa retain mushroom body lobes that are as elaborate as those of mushroom bodies equipped with calyces. Antennal lobe loss and calycal regression also typify taxa with short nonfeeding adults, in which olfaction is redundant. Examples are cicadas and mayflies, the latter representing the most basal lineage of winged insects. Mushroom bodies of another basal taxon, the Odonata, possess a remnant calyx that may reflect the visual ecology of this group. That mushroom bodies persist in brains of secondarily anosmic insects suggests that they play roles in higher functions other than olfaction. Mushroom bodies are not ubiquitous: the most basal living insects, the wingless Archaeognatha, possess glomerular antennal lobes but lack mushroom bodies, suggesting that the ability to process airborne odorants preceded the acquisition of mushroom bodies. Archaeognathan brains are like those of higher malacostracans, which lack mushroom bodies but have elaborate olfactory centers laterally in the brain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Insecta / ultrastructure*
  • Mushroom Bodies / physiology*
  • Mushroom Bodies / ultrastructure*
  • Phylogeny