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Desert Diary

Arthropods/Not Cricket


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Social insects, such as bees, ants, and termites, have long been known to be able to engage in social learning. For the rest of the insect world, it was assumed that behavior was primarily hardwired genetically or learned by direct observation. Now, though, there's some evidence that non-social insects may be able to learn from one another. ln a series of experiments, wood crickets were put into cages that also held predatory spiders and had the floors covered with leaves. Such crickets quickly learned, presumably from observation, to hide under the leaves to avoid being attacked. OK, no big deal about that.

What does seem to be the big deal is that when crickets that had learned this avoidance behavior were put in with crickets that had never been subjected to the predatory spiders, the naive crickets quickly picked up the hiding behavior. Nobody doubts that insects are dumb, but now it appears that they aren't quite as stupid as we thought. From now on, calling a cricket a dumbbell won't be—well, won't be quite cricket.

pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.