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Measurement of Odor-Plume Structure in a Wind Tunnel Using a Photoionization Detector and a Tracer Gas

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The patterns of stimulus available to moths flying along pheromone plumes in a 3-m-long wind tunnel were characterized using a high frequency photoionization detector in conjunction with an inert tracer gas. Four contrasting flow regimes and source conditions were produced odor released in pulses from a vertical and horizontal array of four sources, odor released continuously from a point source, and odor released continuously from a point source into an oscillatory wake. Although the four flow regimes produced plumes of intermittent and fluctuating concentration, there were considerable differences in the structure of the signal presented to the sensor. Pulses of tracer gas released at 10 Hz retained most of their longitudinal and lateral separation. The plume growing in the disturbed flow oscillatory, was broader in its lateral extent than the plume growing in an undisturbed flow continuous, and the concentrations in the former were the lower at each downstream position. The signal recorded in the disturbed flow had higher intermittency, but the ratio between the peak concentration and the signal mean was lower than in the continuous plume. Time scales were typically longer in the tunnel than in a field setting, but length scales and the main features of intermittency and fluctuation were similar. Moths flying along plumes of pheromone in this and similar wind tunnels typically slow their velocity and narrow the lateral excursions of their flight track as they approach a pheromone source. Which features of the plumes measured in this study account for these behavioral reactions remains to be determined.

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  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medicine and Medical Research

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