Olfactory pathway of the hornet Vespa velutina: New insights into the evolution of the hymenopteran antennal lobe.

Antoine Couto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In the course of evolution, eusociality has appeared several times independently in Hymenoptera, within different families such as Apidae (bees), Formicidae (ants), and Vespidae (wasps and hornets), among others. The complex social organization of eusocial Hymenoptera relies on sophisticated olfactory communication systems. Whereas the olfactory systems of several bee and ant species have been well characterized, very little information is as yet available in Vespidae, although this family represents a highly successful insect group, displaying a wide range of life styles from solitary to eusocial. Using fluorescent labeling, confocal microscopy, and 3D reconstructions, we investigated the organization of the olfactory pathway in queens, workers, and males of the eusocial hornet Vespa velutina. First, we found that caste and sex dimorphism is weakly pronounced in hornets, with regard to both whole-brain morphology and antennal lobe organization, although several male-specific macroglomeruli are present. The V. velutina antennal lobe contains approximately 265 glomeruli (in females), grouped in nine conspicuous clusters formed by afferent tract subdivisions. As in bees and ants, hornets display a dual olfactory pathway, with two major efferent tracts, the medial and the lateral antennal lobe tracts (m- and l-ALT), separately arborizing two antennal lobe hemilobes and projecting to partially different regions of higher order olfactory centers. Finally, we found remarkable anatomical similarities in the glomerular cluster organizations among hornets, ants, and bees, suggesting the possible existence of homologies in the olfactory pathways of these eusocial Hymenoptera. We propose a common framework for describing AL compartmentalization across Hymenoptera and discuss possible evolutionary scenarios. J. Comp. Neurol. 524:2335-2359, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalThe Journal of comparative neurology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2016

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