Learning in a sedentary insect predator: Antlions (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) anticipate a long wait.

Lauren Guillette, Audrey Markarian, Karen Hollis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Pit-building antlions, the larvae of a winged adult insect, capture food by digging funnel-shaped pits in sand and then lying in wait, buried at the vertex, for prey to fall inside. The sedentary nature of this sit-and-wait predatory behaviour and, especially, antlions’ innate ability to detect prey arrival, do not fit the typical profile of insects that possess learning capabilities. However, we show, for the first time, that learning can play an important role in this unique form of predation. In three separate experiments, individual antlions received, once per training day, either a vibrational cue presented immediately before the arrival of food or that same cue presented independently of food arrival. Signalling of food not only produced a learned anticipatory behavioural response (Experiment 1), but also conferred a fitness advan- tage: Associative learning enabled antlions to dig better pits (Experiments 2 and 3), extract food more efficiently (Experiments 2 and 3), and, in turn, moult sooner (Experiment 3) than antlions not receiving the associative learning treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-232
JournalBehavioural Processes
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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