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Finding of a sex pheromone source by gypsy moths released in the field


“Moths display some of the most striking examples of long-distance chemical communication in the animal kingdom”1. Recent theories of how the male moths find a distant female have invoked steering by two different directional cues: (1) gradients of odour concentration in the air, used in ‘aerial odour-trail following’, and (2) the wind, used in ‘odour-modulated anemotaxis’2–7. Laboratory evidence has favoured the latter theory as well as contradicting the earlier radiation theories8–11, but the issue could not be settled without recording in the field the flight track of a male moth and, simultaneously, the track of the odour plume. This has now been done with gypsy moths and wind-borne bubbles, confirming theory (2) and showing in addition that cross-wind casting itself contributes to a moth's progressive approach to the odour source, an unexpected consequence of the way odours are dispersed by the wind12.

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David, C., Kennedy, J. & Ludlow, A. Finding of a sex pheromone source by gypsy moths released in the field. Nature 303, 804–806 (1983).

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