Learning affects prey selection in larvae of a generalist coccinellid predator.

Boivin, G., Roger, C., Coderre, D., and Wajnberg, E. (2010). "Learning affects prey selection in larvae of a generalist coccinellid predator.", Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 135(1), pp. 48-55. doi : 10.1111/j.1570-7458.2009.00964.x  Access to full text

Abstract

Under natural conditions, generalist predatory insects have to cope with a variety of potential prey species that are not all equally suitable. Under these circumstances, learning may be adaptive if it allows adjustment to variations in resource quality and availability. Under laboratory conditions, we examined the learning ability and memory in the prey selection process of larvae of the predatory coccinellid Coleomegilla maculata ssp. lengi Timberlake (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Using choice tests, we studied prey rejection behaviour of C. maculata fourth instars towards prey of different quality and we also tested the influence of hunger and prior experience with other food types on the prey rejection behaviour of coccinellid larvae. Coleomegilla maculata larvae gradually changed their behaviour and rejected low-quality hosts more frequently, whereas high-quality hosts were nearly always accepted. After 48 h, the learned behaviour appeared to be partially forgotten. Hunger and experience with other food types prior to the test had little effect on the gradual change of behaviour but the quality of the food ingested influenced the initial level of prey rejection. Our results demonstrate that (1) C. maculata larvae can adjust their prey selection behaviour with experience to reject progressively less suitable prey, and (2) previous experience with other prey types can influence their initial preference

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