Visual inputs to the mushroom body calyces of the whirligig beetle Dineutus sublineatus: modality switching in an insect

J Comp Neurol. 2012 Aug 15;520(12):2562–74. doi: 10.1002/cne.23158.


The mushroom bodies are prominent lobed centers in the forebrain, or protocerebrum, of most insects. Previous studies on mushroom bodies have focused on higher olfactory processing, including olfactory-based learning and memory. Anatomical studies provide strong support that in terrestrial insects with mushroom bodies, the primary input region, or calyces, are predominantly supplied by olfactory projection neurons from the antennal lobe glomeruli. In aquatic species that generally lack antennal lobes, the calyces are vestigial or absent. Here we report an exception to this in the whirligig beetle Dineutus sublineatus (Coleoptera: Gyrinidae). This aquatic species lives on water and is equipped with two separate pairs of compound eyes, one pair viewing above and one viewing below the water surface. As in other aquatic insects, the whirligig beetle lacks antennal lobes, but unlike other aquatic insects its mushroom bodies possess robust calyces. Golgi impregnations and fluorescent tracer injections revealed that the calyces are exclusively supplied by visual neurons from the medulla of the dorsal eye optic lobes. No other sensory inputs reach the calyces, thereby showing a complete switch of calyx modality from olfaction to vision. Potential functions of the mushroom bodies of D. sublineatus are discussed in the context of the behavioral ecology of whirligig beetles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Coleoptera
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / cytology
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / growth & development
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology
  • Male
  • Mushroom Bodies / cytology*
  • Mushroom Bodies / growth & development
  • Mushroom Bodies / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / cytology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Optic Lobe, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Optic Lobe, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways / growth & development
  • Visual Pathways / physiology