Insect social parasites need to overcome host colonies’ defences to exploit their resources successfully. Sophisticated sensory deception mechanisms to break the host’s barriers have been repeatedly reported for many social parasites, possibly concealing the importance of open fighting, a more ancestral strategy. Understanding the relative importance of fooling and fighting is primarily challenging when the two strategies seem both available and advantageous. We focused on the paper wasp social parasiteehost system Polistes sulcifereP. dominulus, where both fooling and fighting have been suggested to play a role during usurpation contests. Host aggression is elicited by the chemical cues (hydrocarbons) that intruders bear on their cuticle. Parasites would benefit from reducing the amount of these cues before approaching the host colony. In addition, the parasites’ facial pattern has been shown to reduce the host’s aggressive reaction, probably by amplifying the mandibular width. We tested the occurrence of chemical and visual cheating through chemical analyses and laboratory usurpation trials, respectively. Usurping parasites did not conceal their identity by reducing cuticular hydrocarbons, nor did their facial pattern facilitate nest take-over. Contest outcome was instead predicted by the relative body size of the opponents. Fighting, rather than fooling, is therefore the strategy used by P. sulcifer usurping females. The importance of physical strength could thus explain why chemical or visual tricks do not play a role in taking over the host colony despite their potential usefulness. Our findings suggest that the evolution of sophisticated cheating mechanisms can be prevented by the ability to fight.

Fight or fool? Physical strength, instead of sensory deception, matters in host nest invasion by a wasp social parasite

CINI, ALESSANDRO;
2011

Abstract

Insect social parasites need to overcome host colonies’ defences to exploit their resources successfully. Sophisticated sensory deception mechanisms to break the host’s barriers have been repeatedly reported for many social parasites, possibly concealing the importance of open fighting, a more ancestral strategy. Understanding the relative importance of fooling and fighting is primarily challenging when the two strategies seem both available and advantageous. We focused on the paper wasp social parasiteehost system Polistes sulcifereP. dominulus, where both fooling and fighting have been suggested to play a role during usurpation contests. Host aggression is elicited by the chemical cues (hydrocarbons) that intruders bear on their cuticle. Parasites would benefit from reducing the amount of these cues before approaching the host colony. In addition, the parasites’ facial pattern has been shown to reduce the host’s aggressive reaction, probably by amplifying the mandibular width. We tested the occurrence of chemical and visual cheating through chemical analyses and laboratory usurpation trials, respectively. Usurping parasites did not conceal their identity by reducing cuticular hydrocarbons, nor did their facial pattern facilitate nest take-over. Contest outcome was instead predicted by the relative body size of the opponents. Fighting, rather than fooling, is therefore the strategy used by P. sulcifer usurping females. The importance of physical strength could thus explain why chemical or visual tricks do not play a role in taking over the host colony despite their potential usefulness. Our findings suggest that the evolution of sophisticated cheating mechanisms can be prevented by the ability to fight.
Cini, Alessandro; Bruschini, Claudia; Poggi, L.; Cervo, Rita
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/1141867
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