SPEAKER: Dr. Romina Barrozo from the Department of Biodiversity and Experimental Biology (Biodiversity and Experimental and Applied Biology Research Institute – Universtiy of Buenos Aires)
TITLE: “To eat or not to eat that’s the question for blood-sucking insects”
VENUE: Seminar room IBioBA-CONICET-MPSP. Godoy Cruz 2390, C1425FQD, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
DATE: Monday, August 12, 12:00 hs.
Abstract: Food finding in blood feeders starts from a long-range distance. Hematophagous insects use heat, odours and humidity emitted by vertebrate hosts to estimate their presence. Typically, hematophagous insects perform a multimodal evaluation to minimize host-finding errors, for example with a non-living heated body. However, sensory ambiguity is without doubts part of the long distance inference of the presence of a food source. But, once blood feeders reach the host, their taste system allows them to perform a more honest evaluation of the nutritional value or the toxicity of food. Likely, the first gustatory assessment of blood feeders takes place over the host skin, before deciding to bite or not to bite. Then, if the insect bites and gorges a blood sample, a second assessment occurs, in which the presence or absence of certain chemical features in the ingested blood triggers the final decision: to eat or not to eat. The taste system is a sensory modality highly specialized in both, the detection of high palatability substances or phagostimulants that signal nutritious food and promote feeding, and those of low palatability or deterrents that signal a potential danger and elicit feeding rejection. Thus, it is the taste system the last and truly reliant sense driving binary decisions about whether to ingest or reject a potential meal. However, the whole picture of how blood-sucking insects evaluate the quality of a potential host is poorly understood. We started filling this gap of knowledge by studying the neuroethological bases of food preferences in blood-sucking insects. Our goal is to elucidate the mechanisms of taste processing from the sensory input to the behavioural output. We direct our efforts to achieve a deeper comprehension about this system in order to find out new strategies oriented to reduce the interactions between insects and humans.