Nutrient-Specific Learning in an Omnivorous Insect: The American Cockroach Periplaneta americana L. Learns to Associate Dietary Protein with the Odors Citral and Carvone

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Experiments were performed to test for nutrient-specific olfactory learning in the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana L. In a conditioning period, cockroaches were presented with two complementary foods, one of which contained protein and the other carbohydrate, this combination allowing them to select a nutritionally balanced diet. The foods were separated in space, and each was paired with one of two odors, citral or carvone. The cockroaches were then selectively deprived of one of the nutrients for 24 or 48 h. In the final (test) phase of the experiment the movement of the cockroaches toward the nutrient-associated odors was monitored. Associative learning was demonstrated with respect to protein, with protein-deprived cockroaches moving more frequently toward the protein-associated odor. No learned associations between carbohydrate and odor were demonstrated. These data are contrasted with similar experiments on an herbivorous insect, the locust Locusta migratoria.

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