Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are vectors of disease, including bluetongue and African horse sickness. Host preference of these insects is primarily regulated by olfactory cues, detected by olfactory sensilla on the antennae and maxillary palps. In this study, we analyzed the sensillum repertoire of biting midge species with known host preferences. Five different morphological sensillum types, sensilla trichodea, s. chaetica, s. ampullacea, s. coeloconica, and grooved peg sensilla, were present on the antennae of all species. In addition sensilla basiconica were present on the maxillary palps. We found that the numbers of short blunt-tipped s. trichodea, s. coeloconica, and s. basiconica are significantly higher in the ornithophilic Culicoides festivipennis (Kieffer) compared with the mammalophilic Culicoides obsoletus (Meigen) and Culicoides chiopterus (Meigen). In contrast, we found that the mammalophilic Culicoides pulicaris (L.) and the opportunistic Culicoides punctatus (Meigen) have intermediate numbers of these sensillum types. Comparison with available data from other species strongly suggests that these differences in the number of specific sensillum types, in general, are a reflection of host preference and not of phylogeny. We discuss the putative function of the individual sensillum types in relation to host volatile detection.
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Vol. 50 • No. 3