Mate Preference Learning and Behavioral Plasticity

Determining the role of social learning in evolutionary processes

Experience has the potential to influence behavior in a wide variety of animal species. As behaviors such as habitat selection, mate selection, foraging, and predator avoidance influence evolutionary trajectories of animal lineages, understanding how experience influences behavior greatly enhances our understanding of evolution.

To elucidate how experience influences behavior, we study the effect of previous social experience as well as current social environment on mating decisions, and use butterflies as our model system.

Previous work with the butterfly Bicycles anynana has demonstrated that mate preference learning can be biased, that these biases can be sexually dimorphic, and that olfactory cues can be used as unconditioned stimuli for visual preference learning. Ongoing research includes determining the pervasiveness of these learning biases throughout the Lepidoptera, and exploring how learning biases may influence wing pattern evolution.

Relevant Publications
Westerman, E.L., Hodgins-Davis, A., Dinwiddie, A., Monteiro, A. (2012) Biased learning affects mate choice in a butterfly. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(27) 10948-10953. Doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118378109 pdf

Westerman, E.L. Monteiro A (2013) Odour influences whether females learn to prefer or
avoid wing patterns of male butterflies. Animal Behaviour 86: 1139-1145. Doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.09.002 pdf

Westerman, E.L., Chirathivat, N+., Schyling, E+., Monteiro, A. (2014) Mate preference for a phenotypically plastic trait is learned, and may facilitate preference-phenotype matching. Evolution 68(6) 1661-1670 Doi: 10.1111/evo.12381 pdf

Westerman, E.L., Drucker, C.B+, Monteiro, A. (2014) Male and female mating behavior is dependent on social context in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Journal of Insect Behavior
27(4) 478-495 Doi: 10.1007/s10905-014-9441-9 pdf




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