Antennae

Type of animal science: Anatomy

Fields of study: Anatomy, conservation biology, developmental biology, entomology, herpetology, invertebrate biology

Antennae serve as a means of feeling and communication through pheromones, and are a criterion to distinguish between families in insect taxonomy.

Principal Terms lipophilic: fat soluble or water insoluble master control gene: a gene that single-handedly triggers the formation of an organ or structure maxillary: pertaining to the upper jawbone olfactory: pertaining to the sense of smell

Many animals, insects, and crustaceans have antennae, which serve as feelers or communication tools. Together with the morphologies of the eyes, head, wings, legs, and body, antennae also serve as a criterion to distinguish between families.

Antennae have many forms in different species. All flies have antennae, which can be of two types. The first, found in the members of the suborder Nematocera, such as crane flies, midges, and gnats, is whiplike, with two basal segments called the scape and the pedicel, as well as a flagellum of many similar segments. The second type, encountered in all members of the Brachy-cera group, has a flagellum contracted into a compound third segment. Crayfish tend to shed the oldest, most distal parts of their antennule once their carapace reaches about seven millimeters in length, and new growth occurs from the proximal end of the flagellum. The antennal flagellum also serves as the multimodal sensory organ that contains mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors in crickets.

Cockroaches use their antennae to locate a wall and to retain a constant distance from it as they move along it. While running, they may make up to twenty-five body turns per second in order to avoid collisions with outward projections. It is believed that exceptionally efficient sensory input from the flagellum of the antenna reports the exact distance from the wall in order to evoke those turns.

The trap-jaw ant, found in the warmer parts of the western hemisphere, has a jaw that moves one thousand times faster than the human eye can blink. These ants use their hair antennae to detect prey; the touch of the antenna against the prey triggers the jaws to snap shut immediately. An-tennal contact appears to be prevalent also in the organization of ant colonies, especially when ants from another colony are nearby. The contact increase is proportional to the numbers of ants present, in agreement with the increased density of nest mates.

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