Insect antennae contain a complex arrays of multiple receptor types. The antennae are platforms for chemo receptors responsible for the sense of smell. Antennae are called “feelers” in the popular literature in recognition of their role in tactile reception. Some insects are characterized by the usual features of the antennae that can have a variety of shapes. Why are the antenna shapes so varied and how does form affect function?
Mutations in Drosophila genes for development can cause a leg to develop instead of an antennae. This mutant, called “antennapedia”, reminds us that the insect antenna is a modified leg. Insect legs have some of the same sensory roles as antennae. Chemoreceptors are the ends of legs are responsible for taste. Legs send tactile information to the insect nervous system. Many insect legs can detect vibrations or even have organs that are adapted for sound detection. Understanding that legs and antennae share some functions in insects allows comparison of structure and function within an individual. Comparing the sensory functions of antennae with legs can produce insights into the properties and organization of the insect antennae and an understanding of how the insect perceives its world.