"The main function of the auditory system in males of chironomid midges is believed to be the detec- tion of a
conspecific female by the sound of its flight. In this study the frequency characteristics of the Johnston organ (JO)
auditory receptors were measured electrophysiologically in midges (Chironomus plumosus). Responses of receptors were
recorded from their axons in antennal nerve using glass microelectrode. Responses were amplified and fed to the
stimulating loudspeaker, thus establishing the positive feedback stimulation. Characteristic frequencies of 436
individual receptor units were measured in this way. Further analysis revealed that, based on individual characteristic
frequencies, the whole receptor complex of the JO can be divided into four distinct groups: A (160–190 Hz), B (205–245
Hz), C (255– 285 Hz) and D (315–370 Hz). The group С corresponds to the fundamental frequency produced by a conspecific
female. Groups B and C fit into the best frequency range of the JO measured by other elec- trophysiological techniques.
Frequency range of the group A coincides with the combination harmonic of the two frequencies: fundamental of a female
flight tone and a male own flight tone. Most of the JO receptors formed pairs which were physiologically distinct in the
antennal nerve. Sev- eral forms of multi-receptor responses were observed during autoexcitation: two different
receptors, each one having its own characteristic frequency, responded in antiphase (with 0° and 180o phases of stimula-
tion), and two receptors demonstrated simultaneous autoexcitation at same phase of stimulation. The first form was
observed in ca. 60% of the whole number of recordings. In more than half of these cases the ratio between two
frequencies was within a narrow range: 1.18–1.28 (average 1.24). Pairs of receptors with this frequency ratio belonged
respectively to the groups A–B, B–C or C–D. In case of simultaneous multireceptor autoexcitation 25% of the pairs
demonstrated the frequency ratio of ca. 1.5 and belonged to the groups A and C. This non-random and specific combination
of frequencies in receptor pairs indicates that the auditory system of a midge utilizes the logic multiplication
(conjunction) of different features of the conspecific signal. Functional coupling of differently tuned receptors, in
part based on the principle of opponency (anti- phase pairs of receptors), might simplify and accelerate further signal
processing in the brain."
Johnston organ, Chironomus plumosus, midge, acoustic communication, frequency tuning, positive feedback
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