Insect antennae are sensory organs of great importance because they can sense diverse environmental stimuli. In addition to serving as primary olfactory organs of insects, antennae also sense a wide variety of mechanosensory stimuli, ranging from low-frequency airflow or gravity cues to high-frequency antennal vibrations due to sound, flight or touch. The basal segments of the antennae house multiple types of mechanosensory structures that prominently include the sensory hair plates, or Böhm's bristles, which measure the gross extent of antennal movement, and a ring of highly sensitive scolopidial neurons, collectively called the Johnston's organs, which record subtle flagellar vibrations. To fulfill their multifunctional mechanosensory role, the antennae of insects must actively move thereby enhancing their ability to sense various cues in the surrounding environment. This tight coupling between antennal mechanosensory function and antennal movements means that the underlying mechanosensory-motor apparatus constitutes a highly tuned feedback-controlled system. Our study aims to explore how the sensory and motor components of this system are configured to enable such functional versatility. We describe antennal mechanosensory neurons, their central projections in the brain relative to antennal motor neurons and the internal morphology of various antennal muscles that actuate the basal segments of the antenna. We studied these in the Oleander hawk moth (Daphnis nerii) using a combination of techniques such as neural dye fills, confocal microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and X-ray tomography. Our study thus provides a detailed anatomical picture of the antennal mechanosensory-motor apparatus, which in turn provides key insights into its multifunctional role.
Keywords: Antennal Motor and Mechanosensory Centre (AMMC); Böhm's bristles; Johnston's organs; antennal muscles; central projections; hair plates; scolopidia.
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