The olfactory response of maggots (the larvae of cyclorrhaphous flies) and
its neuroanatomical basis have been a subject for scientific investigation
since the 17th century, preoccupying both fundamental and applied scientist
s. Despite its apparently arcane nature, the subject raises a series of maj
or neurobiological problems, in particular, the relationship between the nu
mber of odours that can be detected and the apparently simple systems of de
tection and processing available to larvae. Molecular biological techniques
in both neuroanatomy and cell biology have made it possible to begin to re
solve some of these problems, if data from a wide range of studies are inte
grated. Four sectors of research on a large number of species are reviewed:
the behaviour involved in the olfactory response, the wide range of odours
that can be detected, the neuroanatomical basis of olfaction in cyclorrhap
hous larvae and the number of receptors involved in detecting these odours.
Finally, a neuroanatomical model of olfactory processing is presented, tog
ether with perspectives for future research, emphasising the importance of
studying the ecology of the species under investigation.