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Habituation, a form of non-associative learning, has several well-defined characteristics that apply to a wide range of physiological and behavioral responses in many organisms. In classic patch time allocation models, habituation is considered to be a major mechanistic component of parasitoid behavioral strategies. However, parasitoid behavioral responses to host cues have not previously been tested for the known, specific characteristics of habituation. Here, we tested whether the foraging behavior of the egg parasitoid Trissolcus basalis shows specific characteristics of habituation in response to consecutive encounters with patches of host (Nezara viridula) chemical contact cues (footprints), in particular: (i) a training interval-dependent decline in response intensity, and (ii) a training interval dependent recovery of the response. As would be expected of a habituated response, wasps trained at higher frequencies decreased their behavioral response to host footprints more quickly and to a greater degree than those trained at low frequencies, and subsequently showed a more rapid, although partial, recovery of their behavioral response to host footprints. In contrast to previously studied forms of parasitoid memory (i.e., from associative learning), this putative habituation learning could not be blocked by cold anesthesia, ingestion of an ATPase inhibitor, or ingestion of a protein synthesis inhibitor. Our study provides support for the assumption that diminishing responses of parasitoids to chemical indicators of host presence constitutes habituation as opposed to sensory fatigue, and may indicate that the underlying mechanisms differ from other, better-studied forms of parasitoid learning.
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