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Texas field crickets (Gryllus texensis) use visual cues to place learn but perform poorly when intra- and extra-maze cues conflict

Abstract

Central place foraging field crickets are an ideal system for studying the adaptive value of learning and memory, but more research is needed on ecologically relevant cognition in these invertebrates. Here, we test the visuospatial place learning of Texas field crickets (Gryllus texensis) in a radial arm maze. Our study expands previous work on G. texensis cognition for accuracy measures and extends our previous findings on females to both sexes. Additionally, our study examines whether crickets use intra- or extra-maze cues to locate a food reward using a maze rotation that puts the cues in conflict. We found that male and female crickets improved performance over trials when measured by accuracy variables but not latency variables. Thigmotaxis negatively impacted performance in both sexes. In a reward-absent trial, both male and female crickets demonstrated place memory. When intra- and extra-maze cues conflicted during a rotation trial, crickets’ performance was not better than chance. Our rotation results suggest that crickets may experience reciprocal overshadowing of conflicting cues – a result most often seen in other taxa with conflicting multi-modal cues. We conclude that crickets do not rely solely on: (1) a single-cue association, (2) route-following, or (3) their own scent cues to navigate the maze. Instead, male and female Texas field crickets seem to learn the location of the reward using a combination of proximal and distal cues. The possibility to test large numbers of wild-caught or laboratory-reared individuals opens the door to future investigations on the evolutionary ecology of visuospatial learning in these invertebrates.

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Data availability

Data and code are available on Dryad at https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.w3r2280t9. The experiment conducted here was not pre-registered.

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Acknowledgements

This paper is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Julie Morand-Ferron, who had unsurpassed devotion to mentoring students and to the scientific community. Dr. Morand-Ferron’s research program took inspiration from psychologists such as Dr. Michael Domjan. She synthesized psychological methodologies and theories with evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology to better understand the evolution of cognitive traits. While Dr. Morand-Ferron largely worked in wild avian species, she was determined to identify the ideal system for investigating the causes and consequences of cognitive variation. This led Dr. Morand-Ferron to recently adopt field crickets as a study system. The present article represents the second published article from her newly established research on cricket cognition. In losing Dr. Morand-Ferron, our field loses a great scientist, but her ideas will live on in our hearts, thoughts, and publications. We hope that Dr. Morand-Ferron’s couple of publications in this area represent the beginning of fruitful investigations into the cognitive ecology of field crickets, but more importantly, we hope that her ideas inspire the next generation of scientists to read broadly, synthesize big ideas, and raise more questions from those she sought to answer.

We thank Florence Jean-Bouchard and Donovan Tremblay for scoring videos and Maria Doria for providing us with invaluable information regarding her own work. We also thank Donovan Tremblay, Nick Manseau, and James Huynh for help with cricket husbandry.

Funding

This work was supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada through Discovery Grants to J.M.-F. (2019-06558), a Discovery Accelerator Supplemental grant to J.M.-F. and a Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral program scholarship to M.-A.P. J.M.-F. held a University Research Chair in Cognitive Ecology from the University of Ottawa.

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Correspondence to Dovid Y. Kozlovsky.

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Animal ethics

This study used a lower invertebrate study system and so animal care and use policies did not apply.

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Authors declare no conflict of interests.

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Manuscript submitted posthumously. This only applies to Julie Morand-Ferron and should be specifically tied to her name.

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Kozlovsky, D.Y., Poirier, MA., Hermer, E. et al. Texas field crickets (Gryllus texensis) use visual cues to place learn but perform poorly when intra- and extra-maze cues conflict. Learn Behav (2022). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-022-00532-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-022-00532-6

Keywords

  • RAM
  • Learning
  • Rotation
  • Cognition
  • Insect
  • Invertebrate