Thermal stress affects patch time allocation by preventing forgetting in a parasitoid wasp.

Abram, P.K., Cusumano, A., Peri, E., Brodeur, J., Boivin, G., and Colazza, S. (2015). "Thermal stress affects patch time allocation by preventing forgetting in a parasitoid wasp.", Behavioral Ecology, 26(5), pp. 1326-1334. doi : 10.1093/beheco/arv084  Access to full text


Learning and memory allow animals to adjust their foraging strategies through experience. Despite the known impact of temperature on many aspects of the behavioral ecology of animals, memory retention in the face of realistic thermal stress has seldom been assessed. In the laboratory, we studied the behavioral expression of an egg parasitoid’s (Trissolcus basalis) memory when exposed to thermal stress that could be encountered in nature. We hypothesized that thermal stress would disrupt memory consolidation and/or modify the optimality of memory retention, thus affecting patch time allocation strategies. Memory consolidation was resilient to 1h of thermal stress following an unrewarded experience (learning) on a patch of host-associated infochemicals. Neither high (40 °C) or low (10 °C) thermal stress changed the intensity of the experienced wasps’ behavioral response relative to those held at a moderate temperature (25 °C). Next, we investigated how temperature stress could affect the parasitoids’ memory retention (“forgetting”). When kept at a constant moderate temperature after learning, residence times of wasps retested on host cues increased relative to controls (naïve wasps) over a period of 4 days as they presumably “forgot.” However, both hot and cool daily temperature cycles prevented forgetting; the residence times of retested experienced wasps in these treatments did not change relative to controls over time. We discuss to what extent this may be an adaptive response by the parasitoids versus a physiological constraint imposed by temperature. Our findings contribute to an understanding of the impact of thermal stress on foraging strategies that involve learning and memory.

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