Food or family?

Food or family?

Learning to distinguish kin

is hard with prey near.


The benefits of recognising your relatives are many and in cannibalistic species can include avoiding eating members of your own family. Learning kin cues frequently occurs early in life when a number of other cues need to also be learnt, including food cues.

Christiansen and Schausberger (2017) found that predatory mites raised with only their relatives were able to distinguish between related and unrelated larvae. This distinction was not made by mites reared in the presence of relatives and food cues.

The presence of food cues interfered with the learning of kin cues, yet the presence of kin cues did not disrupt the learning of food cues. This suggests that if food is present the mites will learn to identify it, however if there is no food and the mites may need to resort to cannibalism then they learn to avoid eating their own relatives.

Original research:

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