Animal Cognition

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 805–812 | Cite as

Copy if dissatisfied, innovate if not: contrasting egg-laying decision making in an insect

  • Ryoga Otake
  • Shigeto DobataEmail author
Original Paper


The use of conspecific cues as social information in decision making is widespread among animals; but, because this social information is indirect, it is error-prone. During resource acquisition, conspecific cues also indicate the presence of competitors; therefore, decision makers are expected to utilize direct information from resources and modify their responses to social information accordingly. Here, we show that, in a non-social insect, unattractive egg-laying resources alter the behavioural response to conspecific cues from avoidance to preference, leading to resource sharing. Females of the adzuki bean beetle Callosobruchus chinensis avoid laying eggs onto beans that already have conspecific eggs. However, when we provided females with bean-sized clean glass beads with and without conspecific eggs, the females preferred to add their eggs onto the beads with eggs. The glass beads, once coated with water extracts of adzuki beans, enabled the females to behave as if they were provided with the beans: the females preferred bean-odoured glass beads to clean glass beads and they avoided the substrates with eggs. When females are provided with unattractive egg-laying substrates only, joining behaviour (i.e. copying) might be advantageous, as it takes advantage of information about positive attributes of the substrate that the focal animal might have missed. Our results suggest that given only unsatisfactory options, the benefits of copying outweigh the costs of resource competition. Our study highlights the importance of integrating multiple information sources in animal decision making.


Insect cognition Oviposition Scent marking Seed beetle Information cascade 



We thank Ken Cheng and three anonymous referees for constructive comments on earlier drafts. We also thank K. Matsuura, members of Laboratory of Insect Ecology and Y. Toquenaga for their discussion and laboratory support.


This study was partly supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (15K18609 to S.D.).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional (Regulation on Animal Experimentation of Kyoto University) guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

10071_2018_1212_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1060 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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