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Colour preferences influences odour learning in the hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum

  • Anna Balkenius
  • Almut Kelber
Publishing year: 2006
Language: English
Pages: 255-258
Publication/Series: Naturwissenschaften
Volume: 93
Issue: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

The hummingbird hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum, learns colour fast and reliably. It has earlier been shown to spontaneously feed from odourless artificial flowers. Now, we have studied odour learning. The moths were trained to discriminate feeders of the same colour but marked with different odours. They did not learn to discriminate two natural flower odours when they were presented with the innately preferred colour blue, but they did learn this discrimination combined with yellow or green colours that are less attractive to the moth. The yellow colour could be trained to become as attractive as the innately preferred blue colour and the blue colour could be trained to become less attractive. This is the first proof of odour learning in a diurnal moth. The results show that M. stellatarum can use more than one modality in their foraging behaviour and that the system is plastic. By manipulating the preferences for the different colours, their influence on odour learning could be changed.


  • Zoology


  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISSN: 1432-1904
E-mail: anna [dot] balkenius [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

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Lund Vision Group