Stock:
Symbol Lookup
Register | Login
...
History
...
...

Pre Market | Dow Jones | Gold | Newsletters | Learn


Nose woes: air pollutants thwart flower-seeking bugs

Friday, June 27, 2014 5:26 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - You think your nose likes flowers? Well, certainly not as much as the tobacco hornworn moth. In fact, its life depends on it.

These moths, whose olfactory abilities are as good as a bloodhound's and vastly better than a human's, can fly up to 80 miles (130 km) a night searching for their favorite flowers such as the Sacred Datura.

The nectar of these fragrant white, trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom only once at night is an important food source for the moths, which pollinate the flowers. Females also go to the flowers to lay eggs. After hatching, the larvae eat the plant's leaves.

Scientists have wondered how pollinating insects such as these moths track down the flowers they need and whether competing odors - natural and manmade - can mess things up.

In a study published on Friday in the journal Science, researchers placed the moths in a laboratory wind tunnel and exposed them to an array of odors such as car and truck exhaust fumes and fragrances of other plants.

Human sources of pollution fouled up their ability to find flowers and changed how the flower's scent was processed by olfactory neurons in the moth's brain.

"Pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths use their sense of smell to locate flowers from long distances, but we found that scent from neighboring vegetation, and even pollutants given off from vehicle exhaust, can disrupt the moth's behavior," University of Washington biology professor Jeffrey Riffell said.

"Now for the moths that are flying long distances, they can't adequately smell the flowers and at times won't even know the flowers are there," Riffell added. "We really need to conduct more experiments to find out if these pollutants, or even certain plants, might similarly disrupt other pollinators, like honeybees, that are agriculturally important."

The tobacco hornworm moth - a large, nocturnal insect with a wingspan of about 4 inches (10 cm) - ranges from Canada to Central America, including across the United States. In the U.S. Southwest, their favored flower is the Sacred Datura, also known as angel's trumpets.

In a wind tunnel and a computer-controlled odor-stimulus system, the moths were tested to see how well they could distinguish different intensities of Sacred Datura fragrance, as well as mixes of background odors from other plants such as the creosote bushes that often grow nearby. The researchers also piped in chemicals such as those emitted in vehicle exhaust.

The researchers tracked the neuron pathways activated by placing an electrode into the moth's antennal lobe. The antennae serve as an insect's nose. The antennal lobe is the part of the brain that processes odors from the antennae.

The moths can zero in on flowers hundreds of yards (meters) away if there are not too many competing odors. Such odors mess with the balance of excitation and inhibition in the olfactory system, keeping the moths from recognizing the flowers.

"The total combination of dynamic odors, including floral signature odors as well as anthropogenic pollutants, can affect the success of olfactory-based resource finding," University of Arizona researcher Leif Abrell added.

(Reporting by Will Dunham. Editing by Andre Grenon)

PRINT

FREE Options Trading Lessons
I'll show you how to unlock HUGE Gains with Options Trading
Let's make 2014 the year you get RICH!

Latest Headlines

China's ICBC to set up offshore yuan center in Los AngelesChina's ICBC to set up offshore yuan center in Los Angeles
BEIJING (Reuters) - China`s Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC) signed a pact with the Los Angeles city government to promote cross-border yuan trade and set up an offshore renminbi center in Cali...
Chinese premier urges 'new growth engines' amid slowing economy: XinhuaChinese premier urges 'new growth engines' amid slowing economy: Xinhua
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called for "new growth engines" to counter slowing growth in the world`s second largest economy, Xinhua reported late on Friday. The comments cam...
Visa sees Visa Europe option now costing more than $10 billionVisa sees Visa Europe option now costing more than $10 billion
(Reuters) - Visa Inc <V.N>, the world`s largest credit and debit card company, said it might have to pay more than $10 billion to buy its London-based European licensee, Visa Europe Ltd, if its ...
Bank of America hires U.S. officials for financial crime teamBank of America hires U.S. officials for financial crime team
(Reuters) - Bank of America has hired two U.S. government officials to join its financial crimes team, according to three people familiar with the matter, as banks are under increasing pressure to p...
Lockheed, Pentagon ink $4.7 billion deal for eighth batch of F-35 fightersLockheed, Pentagon ink $4.7 billion deal for eighth batch of F-35 fighters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Friday it had awarded Lockheed Martin Corp <LMT.N> a contract valued at $4.7 billion for an eighth batch of F-35 fighter jets, marking a drop in cost ...

Loading Headlines...
 

Stock Market

Track the stock market today with the latest news and information on all things investing! Watch your stocks perform throughout the day and watch the breaking stock market news.

Feedback | disclaimer | privacy policy

Stock Market News

The Stock Market is ever changing. Keep up on your stock market news.

Stock Market Newsletters

Read up on your favorite stock market newsletters.


Learn the Stock Market

Sharper your stock trading skills with our stock market education section.

Algorithm Based
Trade Signals
arrow
small cap swing trades SmallCaps stocks under $10
Index Signals Index Signals SPY, QQQ, DIA, IWM
options trading Mega Stocks options + stock trade signals
Forex Forex Signals major FX pairs signals