The results show that insects learn from their previous experiences and adapt their future behavior for survival and reproduction.
A male brown butterfly bush (left) touches the side of a female (right) during a phase of the courtship sequence.
For a long period, it was assumed that the physical features learned by organisms during their life could not be approved on to their offspring. However, in recent years, the inheritance theory of acquired traits has gained support, with studies showing how the descendants of rats and small worms inherit behaviors acquired by their parents in response to particular environmental stimuli, even when the stimulus is no longer here I’m. in the generation of offspring.
This theory is supported by recent studies by researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS), in which they found that the inheritance of the acquired traits also occurs in butterflies, particularly in the brown butterfly bush Bicyclus anynana.
Two research teams supervised by Associate Professor Antónia Monteiro, of the Department of Biological Sciences of the Faculty of Sciences of the NUS, as well as by the Yale-NUS College, have shown that both the Bicyclus anynana caterpillars and adult butterflies can learn to prefer new smells if they are exposed to them during their development or early in life. The researchers also found that the descendants of exposed caterpillars and butterflies show the same new preferences as their parents, although they have not been exposed, indicating that their parents passed on their newly acquired preferences to their children.
The results of these two studies were published online in Evolution scientific journals in October 2019 and Nature Communications in January 2020.
Learn to want to feed and pair new perfumes
In the study published on Evolution, Dr. V. Gowri, NUS student, researcher Dr. Emilie Dion, and her collaborators exposed caterpillars and butterflies to new smells that they normally don’t feel in their natural environment. In the experiments, the caterpillars were fed corn leaves, their usual food, covered with banana or mango essence throughout their development. Most of these caterpillars preferred to eat leaves with the essence of the fruit after only a few days of exposure.
A caterpillar probing the corn leaf using its mouthpieces.
In the second study, published in Nature Communications, Dr. Dion and her collaborators exposed young female butterflies to new mixtures of sexual pheromones, a perfume produced by males to attract females to mate with them. The results showed that the exposed females, therefore, preferred to mate with males who had the new pheromone mixture.
“These results are major because they show that insects are not only focused on their natures, but they can also study from their earlier practices and adapt their upcoming actions, therefore. The consequences of their learning skills on survival and reproduction can be very important, “shared Dr. Dion.
The offspring acquired the preferences learned from their parents.
Both studies examined the behavior of the offspring of Bicyclus anynana caterpillars and exposed butterflies. The results revealed that the new generation also showed the same preference for new food odors or new sexual pheromone blends, although they have never been exposed to these odors. The teams concluded that the offspring inherited the preferences acquired by their parents.
While these learning and inheritance processes are designed to facilitate the evolution of diet diversity between insects and the selection of partners in the course of insect diversification, the impact of this inheritance mechanism on continuous evolution is not known.