Olfactory-based discrimination learning in the moth, Manduca sexta

Kevin C. Daly, Michelle L. Durtschi, Brian H. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Moths possess highly tuned olfactory capabilities, which can detect very low concentrations of pheromonal odorants. Much is known about the structure and function of the moth olfactory system with respect to detection of pheromones. However, we lack an understanding of the broader olfactory system, in particular, to what degree are moths capable of detecting and discriminating odorants that are not components of pheromone blends. Here we describe a methodology used to investigate the discriminability of nonpheromonal odors in moths. In a series of experiments we show that the moth Manduca sexta can (1) discriminate a number of different odors but (2) that methyl jasmonate, neither readily conditions to a food reward nor is it readily discriminated from another odor. The lack of a response to methyl jasmonate may be related to its role in host plant defense. This work provides a basis for future mapping of physiological and pharmacological studies of nonpheromonal coding in insects onto learned behavioral responses to those odorants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-384
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of insect physiology
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Conditioning
  • Discrimination learning
  • Methyl jasmonate
  • Olfaction
  • Stimulus generalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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