The Neuro-Ecology of fear:
Mechanisms and consequences of enemy avoidance strategies in caterpillars.
Herbivores often change their behaviour in the presents of their natural enemies and in many cases these non-lethal effects of the natural enemy on the herbivore have an even stronger ecological impact than the actual killing of the herbivore by their enemies.
When a caterpillar is feeding on its host plant, the plant commonly releases volatiles, which betray the presence of the caterpillar to its enemies. However, caterpillars might also be able to detect dangerously high levels of these plant volatiles through the olfactory receptors on their antenna and avoid plant parts with too high concentrations of these volatiles. Ultimately these fear response of the caterpillar might alter the entire insect-community associated with a certain plant.
Here we will analyse the behavioural response of the caterpillar to plant volatiles using different video recording techniques and volatile measurements. Thereafter we will test the response of the neurons of on the caterpillar antenna to these volatiles. Finally we might aim to detect the olfactory receptor expressed in the caterpillar antennae and describe the innervation of these neurons in the caterpillar brain.