Drosophila Avoids Parasitoids by Sensing Their Semiochemicals via a Dedicated Olfactory Circuit
Detecting danger is one of the foremost tasks for a neural system. Larval parasitoids constitute clear danger to Drosophila, as up to 80% of fly larvae become parasitized in nature. We show that Drosophila melanogaster larvae and adults avoid sites smelling of the main parasitoid enemies, Leptopilina wasps. This avoidance is mediated via a highly specific olfactory sensory neuron (OSN) type. While the larval OSN expresses the olfactory receptor Or49a and is tuned to the Leptopilina odor iridomyrmecin, the adult expresses both Or49a and Or85f and in addition detects the wasp odors actinidine and nepetalactol. The information is transferred via projection neurons to a specific part of the lateral horn known to be involved in mediating avoidance. Drosophila has thus developed a dedicated circuit to detect a life-threatening enemy based on the smell of its semiochemicals. Such an enemy-detecting olfactory circuit has earlier only been characterized in mice and nematodes.