Picky learning: understanding the specific conditions under which the kleptoparasitic spider Argyrodes antipodianus learns

Mary Whitehouse *1

1 CSIRO (Ecosystem Sciences), Locked bag 59, Narrabri, 2390, NSW, Australia

In animals with a limited number of neurons, learning is heavily constrained. Such animals will most likely demonstrate learning when it is most advantageous, such as when variation between generations is large but variation within generations is low. Argyrodes antipodianus is a kleptoparasite that steals food from other, larger spiders and will opportunistically attack spiderlings. As A. antipodianus can exploit a number of host species, A. antipodianus needs to adjust its stealing behaviour to the idiosyncrasies of each host species in order to be successful. Previous work has shown that A. antipodianus is capable of learning, as males can learn to be winners and loosers in competition for females. This study tested whether A. antipodianus was able also to learn to modify its foraging behaviours. The results showed that A. antipodianus was able to modify its foraging behaviours, but that males seemed more apt at learning than females. These results are discussed with respect to behavioural plasticity within the sub-family Argyrodinae, and in the more general context of learning in invertebrates.

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