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Annu Rev Entomol. 2008;53:145-60.

Evolutionary biology of insect learning.

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Animal Behavior Group, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behavior, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Learning and memory, defined as the acquisition and retention of neuronal representations of new information, are ubiquitous among insects. Recent research indicates that a variety of insects rely extensively on learning for all major life activities including feeding, predator avoidance, aggression, social interactions, and sexual behavior. There is good evidence that individuals within an insect species exhibit genetically based variation in learning abilities and indirect evidence linking insect learning to fitness. Although insects rely on innate behavior to successfully manage many types of variation and unpredictability, learning may be superior to innate behavior when dealing with features unique to time, place, or individuals. Among insects, social learning , which can promote the rapid spread of novel behaviors, is currently known only from a few well-studied examples in social Hymenoptera. The prevalence and importance of social learning in insects are still unknown. Similarly, we know little about ecological factors that may have promoted enhanced learning abilities in insects, and whether learning has significantly contributed to speciation in insects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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