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Learning influences host choice in tsetse

Bouyer J., Pruvot M., Bengaly Z., Guérin P.M., Lancelot R.. 2007. Biology Letters, 3 : p. 113-116.

DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0578

A learning capacity for feeding is described in many insect species including vectors of diseases, but has never been reported in tsetse flies (Diptera, Glossinidae), the cyclic vectors of human (sleeping sickness) and animal trypanosomoses in Africa. Repeated feeding on the same host species by a disease vector is likely to increase the within-species disease-transmission risk, but to decrease it between species. An experiment with cattle and reptiles in a stable provides evidence that the species of host selected for the second blood meal in tsetse flies depends on the host encountered for the first blood meal when the between-meal interval is 2 days. This preference disappears when the between-meal interval is extended to 3 days. The energetic advantages of this acquired preference and its importance in trypanosomoses epidemiology are discussed.

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