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Source of Silkworm Attraction to Mulberry Leaves Discovered

Scientists have discovered the source of the silkworm’s attraction to mulberry leaves, their primary food source. A jasmine-scented chemical (cis-jasmone) emitted in small quantities by the leaves triggers a single, highly tuned olfactory receptor in the silkworms’ antennae, the researchers showed. The results are contrary to the prevailing belief that insects are generally attracted to their host plants through the recognition of a blend of volatile compounds by a combination of receptors, said Dr. Kazushige Touhara of The University of Tokyo, the senior author of the report. In addition to the new insights into insect olfaction, the findings may also have practical implications for those who raise silkworms for the production of silk, he added. The study was published online on May 7 in Current Biology. [Press release] [Current Biology abstract]