Active touch in orthopteroid insects: behaviours, multisensory substrates and evolution

C. Comer, Y. Baba
2011 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences  
Orthopteroid insects (cockroaches, crickets, locusts and related species) allow examination of active sensory processing in a comparative framework. Some orthopteroids possess long, mobile antennae endowed with many chemo-and mechanoreceptors. When the antennae are touched, an animal's response depends upon the identity of the stimulus. For example, contact with a predator may lead to escape, but contact with a conspecific may usually not. Active touch of an approaching object influences the
more » ... elihood that a discrimination of identity will be made. Using cockroaches, we have identified specific descending mechanosensory interneurons that trigger antennal-mediated escape. Crucial sensory input to these cells comes from chordotonal organs within the antennal base. However, information from other receptors on the base or the long antennal flagellum allows active touch to modulate escape probability based on stimulus identity. This is conveyed, at least to some extent, by textural information. Guidance of the antennae in active exploration depends on visual information. Some of the visual interneurons and the motor neurons necessary for visuomotor control have been identified. Comparisons across Orthoptera suggest an evolutionary model where subtle changes in the architecture of interneurons, and of sensorimotor control loops, may explain differing levels of vision -touch interaction in the active guidance of behaviour.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0149 pmid:21969682 pmcid:PMC3172593 fatcat:jlb7xbo6vbaepcaiyow7ox77pq