Changes in the peripheral chemosensory system drive adaptive shifts in food preferences in insects

Ayako Wada-Katsumata, Hugh M. Robertson, Jules Silverman, Coby Schal

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


A key challenge in understanding the evolution of animal behaviors is to identify cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the evolution of adaptive traits and behaviors in polymorphic populations under local selection pressures. Despite recent advances in fish, mice, and insects, there are still only a few compelling examples of major genes and cellular mechanisms associated with complex behavioral changes. Shifts in food or host preferences in insects, accompanied by changes in the peripheral chemosensory system, offer some of the best examples of adaptive behavioral evolution. A remarkable example is the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, a major indoor pest with a highly diverse omnivorous diet. Strong and persistent selection pressure with toxic-baits has induced rapid evolution of behavioral resistance in multiple cockroach populations. While typical cockroaches detect and accept the sugar glucose as a feeding-stimulant, behaviorally resistant cockroaches avoid eating glucose-containing toxic baits by sensing glucose as a deterrent. We review the peripheral gustatory neural mechanisms of glucose-aversion and discuss how the rapid emergence of taste polymorphisms can impede pest control efforts and affect foraging and mate-choice in adapted cockroach populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number281
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
StatePublished - Aug 29 2018


  • Chemoreception
  • Glucose-aversion
  • Gustation
  • Nutrient sensing
  • Sensilla

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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