The strong coevolutionary arms race between social parasites and their hosts has dramatically shaped the life-history traits of both parties. One of the main strategies exhibited by hosts in response to parasitism is reproduction by host workers. We lack a mechanistic understanding of how these defence strategies unfold and, specifically, whether hosts exhibit more subtle strategies to reduce the costs of parasitism from the outset. Here we test the hypothesis that there are both behavioural and neurogenomic signatures of worker responses to parasitism, prior to overt expression in the form of egg-laying; we test this using the social parasite—social host system of the paper wasps Polistes sulcifer-Polistes dominula. We characterized individual workers’ position within the social interaction network of queenright and host colonies immediately after parasite usurpation, weeks before the workers’ reproductive rebellion is evident. Parasitism influenced network centrality measures, with workers in parasitized colonies showing increased connectedness and centrality compared to those in unparasitized ones. Next, we quantified brain gene expression levels for five genes related to physiological and behavioural phenotypes in Polistes wasps. The gene Imaginal disc growth factor (Idgf4), thought to be responsive to changes in the social environment, was significantly down-regulated in workers from parasitized colonies; this may be an indication that parasitized workers are anticipating a shift toward a less worker-like phenotype in preparation for their reproductive rebellion. Our results provide the first evidence of early behavioural and neurogenomic responses of host workers toward the presence of an inquiline social parasite in a social insect.

Behavioural and neurogenomic responses of host workers to social parasite invasion in a social insect

Cini A.;
2020

Abstract

The strong coevolutionary arms race between social parasites and their hosts has dramatically shaped the life-history traits of both parties. One of the main strategies exhibited by hosts in response to parasitism is reproduction by host workers. We lack a mechanistic understanding of how these defence strategies unfold and, specifically, whether hosts exhibit more subtle strategies to reduce the costs of parasitism from the outset. Here we test the hypothesis that there are both behavioural and neurogenomic signatures of worker responses to parasitism, prior to overt expression in the form of egg-laying; we test this using the social parasite—social host system of the paper wasps Polistes sulcifer-Polistes dominula. We characterized individual workers’ position within the social interaction network of queenright and host colonies immediately after parasite usurpation, weeks before the workers’ reproductive rebellion is evident. Parasitism influenced network centrality measures, with workers in parasitized colonies showing increased connectedness and centrality compared to those in unparasitized ones. Next, we quantified brain gene expression levels for five genes related to physiological and behavioural phenotypes in Polistes wasps. The gene Imaginal disc growth factor (Idgf4), thought to be responsive to changes in the social environment, was significantly down-regulated in workers from parasitized colonies; this may be an indication that parasitized workers are anticipating a shift toward a less worker-like phenotype in preparation for their reproductive rebellion. Our results provide the first evidence of early behavioural and neurogenomic responses of host workers toward the presence of an inquiline social parasite in a social insect.
Cini, A.; Branconi, R.; Cervo, R.; Patalano, S.; Sumner, S.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/1141831
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