Royal Society Publishing

Social facilitation of insect reproduction with motor-driven tactile stimuli

Adrienn Uzsák , James Dieffenderfer , Alper Bozkurt , Coby Schal


Tactile stimuli provide animals with important information about the environment, including physical features such as obstacles, and biologically relevant cues related to food, mates, hosts and predators. The antennae, the principal sensory organs of insects, house an array of sensory receptors for olfaction, gustation, audition, nociception, balance, stability, graviception, static electric fields, and thermo-, hygro- and mechanoreception. The antennae, being the anteriormost sensory appendages, play a prominent role in social interactions with conspecifics that involve primarily chemosensory and tactile stimuli. In the German cockroach (Blattella germanica) antennal contact during social interactions modulates brain-regulated juvenile hormone production, ultimately accelerating the reproductive rate in females. The primary sensory modality mediating this social facilitation of reproduction is antennal mechanoreception. We investigated the key elements, or stimulus features, of antennal contact that socially facilitate reproduction in B. germanica females. Using motor-driven antenna mimics, we assessed the physiological responses of females to artificial tactile stimulation. Our results indicate that tactile stimulation with artificial materials, some deviating significantly from the native antennal morphology, can facilitate female reproduction. However, none of the artificial stimuli matched the effects of social interactions with a conspecific female.

  • Received February 8, 2014.
  • Accepted March 5, 2014.
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