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Chromatic Signals Control Proboscis Movements during Hovering Flight in the Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum.

Publiceringsår: 2012
Språk: Engelska
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: PLoS ONE
Volym: 7
Nummer: 4
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: Public Library of Science


Most visual systems are more sensitive to luminance than to colour signals. Animals resolve finer spatial detail and temporal changes through achromatic signals than through chromatic ones. Probably, this explains that detection of small, distant, or moving objects is typically mediated through achromatic signals. Macroglossum stellatarum are fast flying nectarivorous hawkmoths that inspect flowers with their long proboscis while hovering. They can visually control this behaviour using floral markings known as nectar guides. Here, we investigate whether this is mediated by chromatic or achromatic cues. We evaluated proboscis placement, foraging efficiency, and inspection learning of naïve moths foraging on flower models with coloured markings that offered either chromatic, achromatic or both contrasts. Hummingbird hawkmoths could use either achromatic or chromatic signals to inspect models while hovering. We identified three, apparently independent, components controlling proboscis placement: After initial contact, 1) moths directed their probing towards the yellow colour irrespectively of luminance signals, suggesting a dominant role of chromatic signals; and 2) moths tended to probe mainly on the brighter areas of models that offered only achromatic signals. 3) During the establishment of the first contact, naïve moths showed a tendency to direct their proboscis towards the small floral marks independent of their colour or luminance. Moths learned to find nectar faster, but their foraging efficiency depended on the flower model they foraged on. Our results imply that M. stellatarum can perceive small patterns through colour vision. We discuss how the different informational contents of chromatic and luminance signals can be significant for the control of flower inspection, and visually guided behaviours in general.


  • Zoology


  • ISSN: 1932-6203

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