Sensory organs of the thoracic legs of the moth Manduca sexta

Karla S. Kent, Laura M. Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The thoracic legs of the moth Manduca sexta acquire a new form and develop a new complement of sensory organs and muscles during metamorphosis from larva to adult. Because of our interest in the reorganization of neural circuitry and the acquisition of new behaviors during metamorphosis, we are characterizing sensory elements of larval and adult legs so that we may determine the contribution of new sensory inputs to the changes in behaviors. Here we describe the sensory structures of adult legs using scanning electron microscopy to view the external sensilla and cobalt staining to examine innervation by underlying sensory neurons. We find that, in contrast to larval legs, the adult legs are covered with a diverse array of sensilla. All three pairs of thoracic legs contain scattered, singly innervated scalelike sensilla. Campaniform sensilla occur singly or in clusters near joints. Hair plates, consisting of numerous singly innervated hairs, are also present near joints. Other more specialized sensilla occur on distal leg segments. These include singly innervated spines, two additional classes of singly innervated hairs, and three classes of multiply innervated sensilla. Internal sensory organs include chordotonal organs, subgenual organs, and multipolar joint receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-223
Number of pages15
JournalCell and tissue research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemosensory
  • Manduca sexta
  • Mechanosensory
  • Moth
  • Sensilla
  • Thoracic legs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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