Tarsal taste sensilla of the autumn gum moth,Mnesampela privata: morphology and electrophysiological activity Academic Article uri icon


  • Mnesampela privata Guenée (Lepidoptera: Geometridae: Ennominae) is a native Australian geometrid that conducts considerable host assessment prior to ovipositing on its host plants, which belong to the genus Eucalyptus. The leaves of some of their hosts are covered with a particularly thick and waxy cuticle and we have shown that epicuticular waxes influence the oviposition preferences of females. This necessitates that M. privata has evolved specific chemosensory organs to assess the identity and perhaps even the quality of its hosts. In this work, we examined the morphology of tarsal taste sensilla and the sensitivity of their sensory neurones to a range of primary metabolites possibly influential on host assessment and oviposition. The ventral surface of the fifth tarsomere of females bear two parallel rows of up to eight sensilla, each loosely aligned with two parallel rows of five spines. Salts, sugars, and amino acids elicited phasi-tonic multicellular neuronal responses of variable magnitude and form. Two pairs of sensilla are closely apposed to the most distal spine in each row; the sensory neurones associated with these sensilla exhibited notably larger responses to alanine and serine compared with those of all other sensilla. The arrangement of the taste sensilla in close proximity to prominent tarsal spines is unique and could represent an adaptation that enables them to penetrate the wax layer and be brought into contact with primary metabolites present closer to the leaf surface.

publication date

  • November 2009