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 tests in an arena designed to provide only olfactory cues to guide navigation choices. We found that newly hatched locusts navigated toward, and spent more time near, the odor of wheat grass than humidified air. In similar tests, we found that hatchlings avoided moderate concentrations of major individual components of the food blend odor, 1-hexanol (1% v/v) and hexanal (0.9% v/v) diluted in mineral oil relative to control presentations of unscented mineral oil. Hatchlings were neither attracted nor repelled by a lower concentration (0.1% v/v) of 1-hexanol but were moderately attracted to a low concentration (0.225% v/v) of hexanal. We quantified the behavior of the animals by tracking their positions with the Argos software toolkit. Our 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. Our results provide a useful entry point for an analysis of physiological mechanisms underlying innate sensory preferences.

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