We performed a physiological and morphological characterization of sensilla auricillica in male Eriocrania semipurpurella moths. Each auricillic sensillum contained three olfactory receptor neurons. Responding neurons (87 of 139) could be grouped into five physiological types. Type 1 responded to (R,Z)-6-nonen-2-ol and type 2 to its enantiomer (S,Z)-6-nonen-2-ol, both of which are pheromone components of E. semipurpurella. Type 3 responded to both (R)-heptan-2-ol and (R,Z)-4-hepten-2-ol, which are pheromone components of the sympatric species E. cicatricella. Types 4 and 5 responded to the ketones (Z)-6-nonen-2-one and/or nonan-2-one, which are found in the pheromone glands of female E. semipurpurella. Field-trapping showed that type 3 receptor neurons mediate strongly antagonistic effects of (R)-heptan-2-ol and (R,Z)-4-hepten-2-ol on E. semipurpurella, while nonan-2-one should possibly be included as a synergist in the sex pheromone blend of this species. The attraction of E. cicatricella and E. sparrmannella to compounds mixed with the pheromone blend of E. semipurpurella shows that the pheromone components of E. semipurpurella have little or no antagonistic effects on these species. The morphology and physiology of eriocraniid pheromone sensilla are very similar to those found in the order Trichoptera (caddisflies), suggesting a homology between pheromone detection systems in the two sister orders Lepidoptera and Trichoptera.
Evolutionary mechanisms of pheromone divergence in Lepidoptera