Data from: Experience-dependent mushroom body plasticity in butterflies: consequences of search complexity and host range
van Dijk, Laura J.A. et al. (2017), Data from: Experience-dependent mushroom body plasticity in butterflies: consequences of search complexity and host range, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hr1f1
An ovipositing insect experiences many sensory challenges during her search for a suitable host plant. These sensory challenges become exceedingly pronounced when host range increases, as larger varieties of sensory inputs have to be perceived and processed in the brain. Neural capacities can be exceeded upon information overload, inflicting costs on oviposition accuracy. One presumed generalist strategy to diminish information overload is the acquisition of a focused search during its lifetime based on experiences within the current environment, a strategy opposed to a more genetically determined focus expected to be seen in relative specialists. We hypothesized that a broader host range is positively correlated with mushroom body (MB) plasticity, a brain structure related to learning and memory. To test this hypothesis, butterflies with diverging host ranges (Polygonia c-album, Aglais io and Aglais urticae) were subjected to differential environmental complexities for oviposition, after which ontogenetic MB calyx volume differences were compared among species. We found that the relative generalist species exhibited remarkable plasticity in ontogenetic MB volumes; MB growth was differentially stimulated based on the complexity of the experienced environment. For relative specialists, MB volume was more canalized. All in all, this study strongly suggests an impact of host range on brain plasticity in Nymphalid butterflies.