Non-olfactory chemoreceptors in asymmetric setae activate antennular grooming behavior in the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus.

Research paper by Manfred M Schmidt, Charles D CD Derby

Indexed on: 07 Jan '05Published on: 07 Jan '05Published in: The Journal of experimental biology


In the spiny lobster Panulirus argus the antennules carrying olfactory sensilla called aesthetascs and several types of other non-olfactory sensilla accompanying them are frequently groomed by the third maxillipeds in a stereotyped behavioral pattern. This behavior can be elicited by chemical stimulation with l-glutamate. Using selective sensillar ablations, we tested whether this behavior is driven by the numerous aesthetascs, which have been implicated as mediating this chemically elicited antennular grooming behavior in a previous investigation, or other, less numerous sensilla called asymmetric setae, which are tightly associated with aesthetascs. The selective sensilla ablations showed that the asymmetric setae are necessary and sufficient for driving chemically elicited antennular grooming. Bilateral elimination of the ca. 160 asymmetric setae almost completely abolished the behavior, whereas bilateral elimination of the ca. 2600 aesthetascs or of another type of sensilla associated with them (guard setae) did not cause a reduction in chemically elicited antennular grooming. Microscopical analysis of the morphological properties of the asymmetric setae revealed the presence of a terminal pore at the tip of the seta and a phalloidin-positive scolopale below its base. Since these structures have been identified in decapod crustaceans as modality-specific structures of bimodal chemo- and mechanosensory sensilla, we conclude that the asymmetric setae belong to this type of sensilla and thus have the appropriate features to function as chemoreceptors in the elicitation of antennular grooming. The identification of asymmetric setae and not aesthetascs as the drivers of chemically elicited antennular grooming suggests that it is not the olfactory pathway in the brain but a parallel pathway, constituted mainly by the lateral antennular neuropils, that is the neuronal substrate of this behavior. The lateral antennular neuropils receive non-olfactory sensory input from the antennule and contain the major arborizations of antennular motoneurons, allowing that direct sensory-motor coupling is involved in mediating the chemical elicitation of antennular grooming behavior.