Olfactory guided foraging behaviour in drosophilid flies in the context of air pollution

Organisms rely on a multitude of odours to locate food and sites for egg laying. We will investigate how pollutants such as NOX and ozone can breakdown these odours and also how they directly interfere with the sensory organs of insects, in our case the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. To do so we study the chemistry of the breakdown of these odour molecules by pollution and the fly’s neurophysiological and behavioural responses to these modified odour blends. We will investigate how pollutants compromise the function of antennae by screening expression patterns of a multitude of olfaction-related genes via NanoString technology. Most importantly, in field experiments conducted in habitats with varying levels of air pollution we will quantify the flies’ efficiency to target food by olfaction. This will tell us how air pollution affects Drosophila’s olfactory foraging in a natural context. Our hypothesis is that increased levels of NOX and ozone impair olfactory foraging behaviour, not only by modifying volatile blends important for foraging but also by compromising the function of the key olfactory sensory organ - the antennae.

Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Vignesh Venkateswaran (MPI-CE)

Supervision: Dr Markus Knaden (MPI-CE), Dr Peter Anderson (SLU), and Dr Bill S Hansson (MPI-CE).  


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