Innate attraction and aversion to odors in locusts

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Many animals display innate preferences for some odors, but the physiological mechanisms underlying these preferences are poorly understood. Here, with behavioral tests, we establish a model system well suited to investigating olfactory mechanisms, the locust Schistocerca americana . We conducted open field two-choice tests with purely olfactory stimuli. In these tests, newly hatched locusts navigated toward, and spent time near, the source of a food odor blend, crushed wheat grass. In similar tests, we found that hatchlings avoided moderate concentrations of major individual components of the food blend odor, 1-hexanol and hexanal. They were neither attracted nor repelled by a lower concentration of 1-hexanol, but were moderately attracted to a low concentration of hexanal. These results establish that hatchlings have a strong, innate preference for food odor blend, but the valence of the blend’s individual components may be different and may change depending on the concentration. This suggests innate odor preferences may emerge from more complex processing pathways than labeled lines. Our results provide a useful entry point for an analysis of physiological mechanisms underlying innate sensory preferences.

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