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Tobacco Hornworms

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Manduca sexta, commonly referred to as the tobacco hornworm in its caterpillar stage and as the hawkmoth or sphinx moth in its adult stage, is an excellent model research system. The caterpillar is a common fast-growing herbivorous insect that eats primarily tobacco and tomato leaves, while the adult is a generalist nectar feeder.

Current research on Manduca sexta is extremely wide ranging. People are investigating flight mechanisms in the moth, larval nicotine resistance, hormonal regulation of development, and hemolymph physiology, just to name a few of the areas.

Because of its availability, quick lifecycle, and extensive use as a research model, M. sexta is an excellent candidate for use in undergraduate laboratories and research projects. A wide variety of research questions can be asked across the undergraduate curriculum.


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March 1999