What are the costs of learning? Modest trade-offs and constitutive costs do not set the price of fast associative learning ability in a parasitoid wasp

Maartje Liefting*, Jessica L. Rohmann, Cécile Le Lann, Jacintha Ellers

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Abstract

    Learning ability has been associated with energetic costs that typically become apparent through trade-offs in a wide range of developmental, physiological, and life-history traits. Costs associated with learning ability can be either constitutive or induced, depending on whether they are always incurred or only when information is actively learned and memorized. Using lines of the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis that were selected for fast associative learning ability, we assessed a range of traits that have previously been identified as potential costs associated with learning. No difference in longevity, lipid reserves, tibia length, egg load, or fecundity was observed between the selected and control lines. All of these traits are considered to potentially lead to constitutive costs in the setup of this study. A gradual reversal to baseline learning after two forms of relaxed selection was indicative of a small constitutive cost of learning ability. We also tested for a trade-off with other memory types formed at later stages, but found no evidence that the mid-term memory that was selected for caused a decrease in performance of other memory types. In conclusion, we observe only one minor effect of a constitutive cost and none of the other costs and trade-offs that are reported in the literature to be of significant value in this case. We, therefore, argue for better inclusion of ecological and economic costs in studies on costs and benefits of learning ability.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)851–861
    Number of pages11
    JournalAnimal Cognition
    Volume22
    Issue number5
    Early online date20 Jun 2019
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

    Funding

    We would like to thank L. Verwoerd for performing the measurements on the relaxed selection experiment and M. L. Dekker for establishing the 5-day memory pattern of the HVRx base population. ML also sincerely thanks B. Siegerink at the Center for Stroke Research, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin for his hospitality. We would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. ML was funded by the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research NWO/ALW Open Competition Grant 820.01.023 and the German Research Foundation (DFG, Grant no. LI 2990/1-1), CLL by the IEF People Program (Marie Curie Actions FP7/2007-2013) under REA Grant No. 274386, project COEVOLCLIM and JE was supported by the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research VICI Grant No. 865.12.003.

    FundersFunder number
    ALW820.01.023
    IEF People Program (Marie Curie Actions FP7/2007
    Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research NWO
    Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research VICI865.12.003
    Seventh Framework Programme274386
    Research Executive Agency
    Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftLI 2990/1-1

      Keywords

      • Egg load
      • Fecundity
      • Global cost
      • Memory
      • Nasonia
      • Relaxed selection

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