Long-term memory (LTM) formation usually requires repeated, spaced learning events and is achieved by the synthesis of specific proteins. Other memory forms require a single learning experience and are independent of protein synthesis. We investigated in two closely related parasitic wasp species, Cotesia glomerata and Cotesia rubecula, whether natural differences in foraging behaviour are correlated with differences in LTM acquisition and formation. These parasitic wasp species lay their eggs in young caterpillars of pierid butterflies and can learn to associate plant odours with a successful egg laying experience on caterpillars on the odour-producing plant. We used a classical conditioning set-up, while interfering with LTM formation through translation or transcription inhibitors. We show here that C. rubecula formed LTM after three spaced learning trials, whereas C. glomerata required only a single trial for LTM formation. After three spaced learning trials, LTM formation was complete within 4h in C. glomerata, whereas in C. rubecula, LTM formation took 3 days. Linking neurobiology with ecology, we argue that this species-specific difference in LTM acquisition and formation is adaptive given the extreme differences in both the number of foraging decisions of the two wasp species and in the spatial distributions of their respective hosts in nature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Journal publication date2007

ID: 291177