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Book Chapter

Environmental Influences on Behavioral Development in Insects


Ghiradella,  H
Schuster Group, Friedrich Miescher Laboratory, Max Planck Society;


Barth,  M
Schuster Group, Friedrich Miescher Laboratory, Max Planck Society;

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Hirsch, H., Ghiradella, H., & Barth, M. (2008). Environmental Influences on Behavioral Development in Insects. In J. Capinera (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Entomology (2. ed., pp. 1347-1353). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-1E48-2
Information stored in the genome cannot be altered over the course of a lifetime, but only across a multitude of generations. Thus, the genome can give rise to developmental programs that will result in an organism, but it cannot optimize this organism for the conditions it may meet during its particular lifetime. It has long been assumed that if that lifetime is short, such optimization may not be necessary and that such short-lived animals as insects are develop- mentally inflexible, ensuring genetic survival by fecundity, rather than by investment in the per- fection of individuals. As we shall see, this is not the case; like vertebrates, insects steer, rather than aim, development, even of behavior, which will be our special focus here. Developmental plasticity of behavior is especially significant to the organism, indeed to the whole community, since even subtle changes in behavior can have significant effects on an animal’s success in obtaining food, escaping predation, or finding a mate. And we are now coming to realize that in insects, even as in vertebrates, behavioral development is the result of a series of “dialogs” between the nervous system and the outside world.