The Effect of Associative Learning on Antlion Feeding Behavior and Fitness



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Previous research has demonstrated that a variety of insects are capable of responding to learned cues; however research has yet to analyze the effect of learning in predators that do not use active foraging methods to procure food. The current study examined the effect of learning on a sit-and-wait predator, the antlion (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontiadae). In the study 16 antlions were placed in individual plastic containers and allowed to build a pit. The subjects were assigned to learning (LRN) and control (CON) treatment groups. Each subject received one ant every 48-hour training day. Subjects in the LRN condition received a cue, namely 4.5 ml of sand dropping, immediately prior to the delivery of the ant, while CON subjects received the same sand dropping cue at an independent time. Feeding behavior (mass extracted, extraction time, extraction rate, extraction efficiency, extraction efficiency rate, visibility, and movement) as well as pit building behavior (pit volume and pit location) were measured each training day to determine if an association between the presentation of a cue prior to the presentation of an ant resulted in differences in feeding behavior. The study did not find evidence of differences in extraction measures; however, a response to the cue was demonstrated in increased visibility and greater pit volume in the LRN condition.



antlions, associative learning, fitness, animal behavior, insects