The Evolutionary Relevance of Social Learning and Transmission in Non-Social Arthropods with a Focus on Oviposition-Related Behaviors

Genes (Basel). 2021 Sep 22;12(10):1466. doi: 10.3390/genes12101466.


Research on social learning has centered around vertebrates, but evidence is accumulating that small-brained, non-social arthropods also learn from others. Social learning can lead to social inheritance when socially acquired behaviors are transmitted to subsequent generations. Using oviposition site selection, a critical behavior for most arthropods, as an example, we first highlight the complementarities between social and classical genetic inheritance. We then discuss the relevance of studying social learning and transmission in non-social arthropods and document known cases in the literature, including examples of social learning from con- and hetero-specifics. We further highlight under which conditions social learning can be adaptive or not. We conclude that non-social arthropods and the study of oviposition behavior offer unparalleled opportunities to unravel the importance of social learning and inheritance for animal evolution.

Keywords: Drosophila; behavioral plasticity; communication; culture; fitness; herbivores; natural selection; oviposition site selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Oviposition*
  • Social Learning