Mating affects resource selection and modulates associational effects between neighbouring resources

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Associational effects occur when the attack rate on a resource depends on neighbouring resources in the environment. These effects are predicted to result from mismatches experienced by the consumer organism in resource selection along hierarchical search levels. As resource selection depends on sensory information used during search behaviour, we expected that different physiological states of an insect might modulate the outcome of associational effects due to differences in resource selection. We used Drosophila melanogaster, as a model organism for olfactory-guided behaviour in insects, to study the effects of mating induced behavioural changes on associational effects between two alternative resources. We found that mating has no effect on the ability of D. melanogaster to locate resource patches, but rather affects the perception of the resources within the patch. Consequently, we only found associational effects in the experiments with unmated females and not in the experiments with mated females. Our results suggest that the lack of associational effects for mated females resulted from changes in the use of short-range olfactory cues, leading to random selection among the resources. In conclusion, our results suggest that the physiological state of an insect modulates associational effects by affecting resource selection rates within the patch.

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