Discrimination Learning in Antlions (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae): Learning to Differentiate Prey from Non-prey



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Associative learning has been demonstrated in many insects, including pit-digging larval antlions (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Nonetheless, the role of discrimination learning in antlions has yet to be explored. This study was an attempt to provide further support for the role of associative learning in antlion predation, while also examining discrimination learning. Antlions were assigned to either a learning or control group. Antlions in the learning condition were taught to associate a vibratory cue, namely falling sand of a particular density, with the delivery of food, and another vibratory cue, namely falling sand of a different density, with the delivery of an inert object. I hypothesized that antlions in the learning group would learn to associate the arrival of both the prey and the non-prey item with the delivery of a specific vibratory cue, which would lead to better prey handling and, in turn, faster pupation. That is, I predicted that, compared to the control group, antlions in the learning group would extract nutrients from prey more efficiently, construct larger pits, and discard the inert object from their pits more quickly. Although the results of this study could not support the hypotheses, they provide hope for future studies investigating discrimination learning in antlions with some simple procedural modifications.



antlions, learning