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The organs and structures that insects use for chemosensation differ significantly from a human nose or a human tongue, and in fact many species use a diverse set of tissues or organs to accomplish chemosensation. For example, many insect species express gustatory proteins in their heads, in the maxillary palps, as well as their legs.

Image courtesy of CDC/J. Gathany

The proteins and molecular effectors utilized in the insect chemosensory system are the same in olfaction and gustation. For illustrative purposes the following series of diagrams will outline the events and molecules involved in insect olfaction. In this particular case, the insect in question is a mosquito.

Key chemosensory organs are the antennae, the maxillary palps, and the labial palps, highlighted in the diagram. It is within these tissues that the processes responsible for recognizing an external stimulus – such as an odor molecule from the environment – take place. These organs have chemosensory bristles on their surfaces.

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