In the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri
Kuwayama, stimulatory cuticular hydrocarbons act as sex pheromone attractants. Male psyllids locate aggregations of females using those olfactory cues, as well as vibrational communication on the plant surface. Although previous research has indicated that learning plays a role in modulating female reproductive behaviors in psyllids, it is unknown whether males similarly use learning to increase the likelihood of copulatory success. We used an olfactometer-based bio-assay to study the effects of experience on male response to female odor. First, we compared male attraction to female odor in virgin and previously mated males. Second, we tested the effect of several modes of experience with a novel odor, vanillin, to determine whether mating, feeding, or general environmental exposure elicited a learned response. We found that male attraction to female odor significantly increased after mating experience. In addition, we found that males learn about odor specifically in the context of mating, rather than feeding or general exposure. Electrophysiological measurements of antennal response to odorants confirmed that mating status did not affect the sensitivity of the peripheral nervous system to volatile stimuli implicating learning at the level of the central nervous system. These results suggest that male response to female odor is not an entirely innate behavior. Males may require mating experience with female conspecifics to develop attraction to those olfactory cues produced by the female and in association with the female’s habitat. This adaptive plasticity may allow males to detect females in an ever-changing environment and promote diversification and further specialization on different host genotypes.
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