Segmentally distributed metamorphic changes in neural circuits controlling abdominal bending in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta

William C. Lemon, Richard B. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


During the metamorphosis of Manduca sexta the larval nervous system is reorganized to allow the generation of behaviors that are specific to the pupal and adult stages. In some instances, metamorphic changes in neurons that persist from the larval stage are segment-specific and lead to expression of segment-specific behavior in later stages. At the larval-pupal transition, the larval abdominal bending behavior, which is distributed throughout the abdomen, changes to the pupal gin trap behavior which is restricted to three abdominal segments. This study suggests that the neural circuit that underlies larval bending undergoes segment specific modifications to produce the segmentally restricted gin trap behavior. We show, however, that non-gin trap segments go through a developmental change similar to that seen in gin trap segments. Pupal-specific motor patterns are produced by stimulation of sensory neurons in abdominal segments that do not have gin traps and cannot produce the gin trap behavior. In particular sensory stimulation in non-gin trap pupal segments evokes a motor response that is faster than the larval response and that displays the triphasic contralateral-ipsilateral-contralateral activity pattern that is typical of the pupal gin trap behavior. Despite the alteration of reflex activity in all segments, developmental changes in sensory neuron morphology are restricted to those segments that form gin traps. In non-gin trap segments, persistent sensory neurons do not expand their terminal arbors, as do sensory neurons in gin trap segments, yet are capable of eliciting gin trap-like motor responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-610
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology - A Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Insect
  • Larva
  • Metamorphosis
  • Nervous system
  • Pupa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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