Parallel Olfactory Systems in Insects: Anatomy and Function

Annual Review of Entomology

Vol. 55:399-420 (Volume publication date 1 January 2010)
First published online as a Review in Advance on September 8, 2009
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-ento-112408-085442

Abstract

A striking commonality across insects and vertebrates is the recurring presence of parallel olfactory subsystems, suggesting that such an organization has a highly adaptive value. Conceptually, two different categories of parallel systems must be distinguished. In one, specific sensory organs or processing streams analyze different chemical stimuli (segregate parallel systems). In the other, similar odor stimuli are processed but analyzed with respect to different features (dual parallel systems). Insects offer many examples for both categories. For example, segregate parallel systems for different chemical stimuli are realized in specialized neuronal streams for processing sex pheromones and CO2. Dual parallel streams related to similar or overlapping odor stimuli are prominent in Hymenoptera. Here, a clear separation of sensory tracts to higher-order brain centers is present despite no apparent differences regarding the classes or categories of olfactory stimuli being processed. In this paper, we review the situation across insect species and offer hypotheses for the function and evolution of parallel olfactory systems.

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