Nest-mate recognition is fundamental for protecting social insect colonies from intrusion threats such as predators or social parasites. The aggression of resident females towards intruders is mediated by their cuticular semiochemicals. A positive relation between the amount of cues and responses has been widely assumed and often taken for granted, even though direct tests have not been carried out. This hypothesis has important consequences, since it is the basis for the chemical insignificance strategy, the most common explanation for the reduction in the amount of semiochemicals occurring in many social parasites. Here we used the social wasp Polistes dominulus, a model species in animal communication studies and host of three social parasites, to test this hypothesis. We discovered that different amounts of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC) of a foreign female evoke quantitatively different behavioural reactions in the resident foundress. The relation between CHCquantity and the elicited response supports the idea that a threshold exists in the chemical recognition systemof this species. The chemical insignificance hypothesis thus holds in a host–parasite system of Polistes wasps, even though other explanations should not be discarded.

A quantitative threshold for nestmate recognition in a paper social wasp

CINI, ALESSANDRO;
2009

Abstract

Nest-mate recognition is fundamental for protecting social insect colonies from intrusion threats such as predators or social parasites. The aggression of resident females towards intruders is mediated by their cuticular semiochemicals. A positive relation between the amount of cues and responses has been widely assumed and often taken for granted, even though direct tests have not been carried out. This hypothesis has important consequences, since it is the basis for the chemical insignificance strategy, the most common explanation for the reduction in the amount of semiochemicals occurring in many social parasites. Here we used the social wasp Polistes dominulus, a model species in animal communication studies and host of three social parasites, to test this hypothesis. We discovered that different amounts of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC) of a foreign female evoke quantitatively different behavioural reactions in the resident foundress. The relation between CHCquantity and the elicited response supports the idea that a threshold exists in the chemical recognition systemof this species. The chemical insignificance hypothesis thus holds in a host–parasite system of Polistes wasps, even though other explanations should not be discarded.
Cini, Alessandro; L., Gioli; Cervo, Rita
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/1141829
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