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Electroantennographic resolution of pulsed pheromone plumes in two species of moths with bipectinate antennae.

Abstract

Trains of 20-ms-duration pulses of pheromone were delivered at rates of 1-33 Hz to antennal preparations of males of Bombyx mori and Lymantria dispar, two moth species with bipectinate antennae. Resolution of rapidly pulsed plumes of pheromone was not compromised by a complex antennal morphology or by moderate changes in wind speed (25-50 cm/s). Fourier analysis of the electroantennograms resolved the temporal structure of the signal at frequencies up to 25 Hz for B. mori and up to 5 Hz for L. dispar. The ability of these sensory structures to identify the original (unchanged) frequency of the pulse train is particularly noteworthy because air is slowed by about an order of magnitude as it passes through bipectinate antennae. Although an unchanging frequency in slowed airflow may be counterintuitive, this flow pattern, and its effects on odorant patch shape and spacing, is explained from fluid mechanical principles (i.e., the principle of continuity). An unchanging frequency suggests that as decelerating air passes through a bipectinate antenna, the slowed patches of odorant are stretched, thinned, and brought closer together by the same factor with which they are slowed.

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