Sphingidae Taxonomic Inventory

Creating a taxonomic e-science

Wavelength discrimination and the role of ultraviolet vision in the feeding behaviour of hawkmoths

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1994
Authors:R. H. White, Stevenson, R. D., Bennett, R. R., Cutler, D. E., Haber, W. A.
Start Page:427

"Nocturnal Sphingidae (hawkmoths or sphinx moths) are important pollinators in tropical forests. Hawkmoth flowers are typically white to the human eye. As the retinas of hawkmoths contain ultraviolet-sensitive photoreceptors, flower patterns reflecting ultraviolet wavelengths (that are not visible to humans) might be significant to sphingid feeding behavior. The flowers of ten hawkmoth-pollinated species were examined with an ultraviolet sensitive video system in Monteverde, Costa Rica. All were found to lack ultraviolet reflectance. A common hawkmoth species, Manduca sexta, whose range extends to Costa Rica was then used in laboratory free choice experiments to determine which wavelengths elicited proboscis extension, probing and drinking of sugar water. When offered a choice between artificial flowers or backlighted filters, Manduca strongly preferred to feed at those reflecting or transmitting only wavelengths longer than 400 nm, avoiding those that also included ultraviolet wavelengths. That is, feeding behavior was best elicited by stimuli that mimicked the reflectance of typical hawkmoth flowers. Feeding behavior must be primarily activated by either the green- or violet-sensitive mechanisms (or both) of the hawkmoth visual system, while concurrent activation of the ultraviolet-sensitive mechanism interferes with it."

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith