Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Being a Standout Has Its Benefits

19.10.2009
Standing out in a crowd is better than blending in, at least if you're a paper wasp in a colony where fights between nest-mates determine social status.

That's the conclusion of a study by University of Michigan researchers published online this week in the journal Evolution.

"It's good to be different, to wear a nametag advertising your identity," said graduate student Michael Sheehan, who collaborated on the research with evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts.

In earlier research, Tibbetts showed that paper wasps (Polistes fuscatus) recognize individuals by variations in their facial markings and that they behave more aggressively toward wasps with unfamiliar faces. Then last year, Sheehan and Tibbetts published a paper in Current Biology demonstrating that these wasps have surprisingly long memories and base their behavior on what they remember of previous social interactions with other wasps.

That's important in a species like P. fuscatus, in which multiple queens establish communal nests and raise offspring cooperatively, but also compete to form a linear dominance hierarchy. Remembering who they've already bested---and been bested by---keeps individuals from wasting energy on repeated aggressive encounters and presumably promotes colony stability by reducing friction.

In the latest work, Sheehan and Tibbetts wanted to see if individual wasps benefit not only by being able to recognize others, but by being recognizable themselves. Most previous studies of individual recognition---which is found not only in social wasps, but also in a variety of creatures including lobsters, salamanders, penguins and people---have focused only on the presence or absence of the ability in a given species. But little research has centered on the individual being recognized.

To investigate the pros and cons of being a standout, the researchers altered the wasps' facial patterns and set up groups of four unrelated wasp queens, in which three wasps looked alike and one looked distinctively different from the others. The experimenters then videotaped encounters among the wasps and played the tapes back, recording and scoring all acts of aggression.

They found that distinctively-marked wasps were less likely to be the targets of aggression than were look-alike wasps.

"Given that receiving aggression is costly, in terms of injury or energy expenditure, these results indicate that being distinctive is beneficial," Sheehan said.

The benefits of being recognizable may extend beyond wasp societies, Tibbetts said. "For example, have you ever wondered why there is so much variation in human facial features? One possibility is that a mechanism similar to that found in wasps is operating in humans: those with unusual faces, who are easy to identify, may do better than those with more similar faces. Over evolutionary time, this would result in the huge variation in human faces that we see today."

Next, the researchers want to investigate the possible genetic underpinnings of the wasps' naturally occurring facial variations and to look more closely at how whole wasp societies benefit by being made up of distinctive, easily-recognized members.

"We've shown the benefit to an individual of being different," Sheehan said. "Now we want to explore how a group benefits from diversity."

For more information:
Michael Sheehan: http://www.eeb.lsa.umich.edu/eeb/people/grads/mic.html
Elizabeth Tibbetts: http://www.eeb.lsa.umich.edu/eeb/people/tibbetts/index.html
Evolution: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/117958524/home

Nancy Ross-Flanigan | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://umich.edu/news/index.html?Releases/2009/Oct09/identity

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Individual Receptors Caught at Work
19.10.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction
19.10.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>