Social learning about egg-laying substrates in fruitflies
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Social learning, defined as learning from other individuals, has had dramatic effects on some species, including humans, in whom it has generated a rich culture. As a first step in examining the evolution of and mechanisms underlying social learning in insects, we tested for social learning in fruitflies (Drosophila melanogaster). Focal females (observers) that experienced novel food together with mated females (models), who had laid eggs on that food, subsequently exhibited a stronger preference for laying eggs on that food over another novel food compared with focal females that experienced the food alone. We observed no social learning, however, when observers experienced food with potentially more ambiguous social information provided by the presence of either virgin models or aggregation pheromone. This first documentation of social learning about egg-laying substrates in fruitflies builds on recent data indicating intricate use of social information by fruitflies and opens up exciting avenues for research on the evolution and neurogenetics of social learning using biology's major model system.
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