Retention of Memory through Metamorphosis: Can a Moth Remember What It Learned As a Caterpillar? DJ. Blackiston, E. Silva Casey, MR. Weiss, PLoS ONE 3(3): e1736

Insects that undergo complete metamorphosis experience enormous changes in both morphology and lifestyle. The current study examines whether larval experience can persist through pupation into adulthood in Lepidoptera, and assesses two possible mechanisms that could underlie such behavior: exposure of emerging adults to chemicals from the larval environment, or associative learning transferred to adulthood via maintenance of intact synaptic connections. The present study, the first to demonstrate conclusively that associative memory survives metamorphosis in Lepidoptera, provokes intriguing new questions about the organization and persistence of the central nervous system during metamorphosis. The results have both ecological and evolutionary implications, as retention of memory through metamorphosis could influence host choice by polyphagous insects, shape habitat selection, and lead to eventual sympatric speciation.

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Manduca sexta

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