Volume 8, Issue 2 p. 109-120

Zigzagging and casting as a programmed response to wind-borne odour: a review


Corresponding Author


Agricultural Research Council Insect Physiology Group, Department of Pure and Applied Biology, Imperial College, London

*Senior Research Fellow, Imperial College.

Dr J. S. Kennedy, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS.Search for more papers by this author
First published: June 1983
Citations: 196


ABSTRACT. ‘Counterturning’ (meaning here the execution of a succession of alternating left and right turns) is the common feature in upwind zigzagging and cross-wind casting by flying insects manoeuvring towards a small source of wind-borne odour. Recent progress in understanding its control and function is discussed. Counterturning is internally controlled (‘self-steered’) in the limited sense that, once initiated by a chemical stimulus, it continues without further changes in the chemical input both in clean air and in a homogeneous cloud of odour. As a reaction it appears to be the kind of chemotaxis distinguished as longitudinal klinotaxis, for which the stimulus is a difference of chemical concentration detected over time along the insect's path, not across it. The new directions taken in response to the stimulus, being self-steered in the above sense, have no necessary relation to the direction of the chemical gradient that provided the stimulus but are influenced by the visual cues generated by wind drift. In wind, the counterturning programme is modulated by changes in the chemical input and simultaneously integrated with anemotaxis, but it can then continue in similar form after the wind has ceased. Unambiguous evidence for these conclusions is so far available only for certain flying male moths responding to sex pheromone. The primary function of counterturning, of all amplitudes and in both zigzagging and casting, appears to be the regaining of contact with an elusive scent.