Mechanosensory hairs in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) detect weak electric fields

Sutton, Gregory and Clarke, Dominic and Morley, Erica and Robert, Daniel (2016) Mechanosensory hairs in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) detect weak electric fields. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (26). pp. 7261-7265. ISSN 0027-8424

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1601624113

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Mechanosensory hairs in bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) detect weak electric fields

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Item Type:Article
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Abstract

Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) use information from surrounding electric fields to make foraging decisions. Electroreception in air, a nonconductive medium, is a recently discovered sensory capacity of insects, yet the sensory mechanisms remain elusive. Here, we investigate two putative electric field sensors: antennae and mechanosensory hairs. Examining their mechanical and neural response, we show that electric fields cause deflections in both antennae and hairs. Hairs respond with a greater median velocity, displacement, and angular displacement than antennae. Extracellular recordings from the antennae do not show any electrophysiological correlates to these mechanical deflections. In contrast, hair deflections in response to an electric field elicited neural activity. Mechanical deflections of
both hairs and antennae increase with the electric charge carried by the bumblebee. From this evidence, we conclude that sensory hairs are a site of electroreception in the bumblebee.

Keywords:insect, biomechanics, electroreception, sensory
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
C Biological Sciences > C340 Entomology
C Biological Sciences > C100 Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:34748
Deposited On:25 Feb 2019 15:32

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