Publications

Unravelling reward value: the effect of host value on memory retention in Nasonia parasitic wasps

Hoedjes, K.M.; Kralemann, L.E.M.; Vugt, J.J.F.A. van; Vet, L.E.M.; Smid, H.M.

Summary

Learning can be instrumental in acquiring new skills or optimizing behaviour, but it is also costly in terms of energy and when maladaptive associations are formed: the balance between costs and benefits affects memory dynamics. Numerous studies have demonstrated that memory dynamics of animal species depend on the value of the reward during conditioning, even when animals are inexperienced with this reward. How an animal perceives reward value depends on a number of aspects, including the quantity or quality of the reward in terms of energy or fitness for the animal, the internal state of the animal and previous experience. The reliability of the learned association is another aspect, which can be assessed through the frequency of experiences, or through perception of inherent properties of the reward. The reward in oviposition learning of parasitic wasps is a host to parasitize. Different host species can differ in their reward value. This study focused on a specific aspect of reward value, namely host value, i.e. the number and size of emerging offspring, and tested the effect on oviposition learning in parasitic wasps of the genus Nasonia. We conditioned parasitic wasps of the species Nasonia vitripennis and Nasonia giraulti using three different host species as a reward, which differed greatly in their value as a host. However, for both parasitic wasp species, the resulting memory formation was independent of the value of the host. We discuss factors that may be responsible for this observation.