The effect of environmental temperature on olfactory perception in Drosophila melanogaster

J Insect Physiol. 2009 Oct;55(10):943-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2009.06.009. Epub 2009 Jul 4.


Olfaction provides chemical information to an animal about its environment. When environmental conditions change, individuals should be able to adequately maintain function. Temperature may influence olfaction in a double manner, as it modifies the concentrations of gaseous compounds and affects biological processes. Here, we address acclimatization to environmental temperature in the olfactory system of Drosophila melanogaster using heat and cold treatments. Because the consequences of temperature shifts persist for some time after the treatment's end, comparison of olfactory behaviors at the same temperature in treated and untreated flies allows us to infer the biological effects of temperature in olfaction. At intermediate odorant concentrations heat always generates a reduction of olfactory sensitivity, as they would be expected to compensate for the increase of volatiles in the air. Cold produces the opposite effect. These changes are observed in both sexes and in natural populations as well as in standard laboratory stocks. Short applications suffice to cause detectable olfactory perception changes, but even prolonged temperature treatments have only a transitory effect. Together, these results suggest that olfaction in Drosophila underlies acclimatization to environmental temperature. However, sensitivity changes are not immediate and may cause imperfect adjustment of olfactory function for short time periods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Olfactory Perception
  • Temperature