Complex Multi-modal Sensory Integration and Context Specificity in Colour Preferences of a Pierid Butterfly

May 28, 2020 | Biology

Freshly curated from the Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB), Lab.Equipment brings you this article for your day-to-day Biology news fix.

G. S. Balamurali, Saloni Rose, Hema Somanathan, and Ullasa Kodandaramaiah

Innate colour preferences in insects were long considered to be a non-flexible representation of a floral ‘search image’ guiding insects to flowers during initial foraging trips. However, these colour preferences have recently been shown to be modulated by multi-sensory integration of information. Using experiments on the butterfly Catopsilia pomona (Common Emigrant), we demonstrate that cross-modal integration of information not only affects colour preferences but also colour learning, and in a sex-specific manner. We show that spontaneous colour preference in this species is sexually dimorphic, with males preferring both blue and yellow while females prefer yellow. With minimal training (two trainings), both males and females learned to associate blue with reward, but females did not learn green. This suggests that the aversion for green, in the context of foraging, is stronger in females than in males, likely because green is used as a cue to find oviposition sites in butterflies. However, females learned green after extensive training (five trainings). Intriguingly, when a floral odour was present along with green during training, female colour preference during the subsequent choice tests resembled their innate preference (preference for yellow). Our results show that multi-sensory integration of information can influence preference, sensory bias, learning and memory in butterflies, thus modulating their behaviour in a context-specific manner... Want to read more? Visit the Journal of Experimental Biology​ Blog.

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