Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Blotchier The Face, The Better The Wasp

11.11.2004


Putting on airs doesn’t cut it in the wasp world.

When wasps sporting the high-quality symbol of a blotchy face turned out to be wimps, they got harassed more than wasps whose abilities were honestly reflected by their faces, report researchers. It’s the first conclusive report that animals that don’t signal their qualities honestly receive social sanctions. Moreover, it’s the first report of such quality signals in insects. "It’s the most conclusive evidence that these dishonest visual signals have a social cost," said Elizabeth A. Tibbetts, a postdoctoral fellow with the Center for Insect Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "If you fake it, you’ll get beaten up."

She and her co-author James Dale of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada report their findings in the Nov. 11 issue of the journal Nature. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.



Many animals sport visible indicators of the bearer’s quality. Such signals include the redness of a cardinal or the size of the black spot on a house sparrow’s chest. However, biologists wonder what keeps other animals from cheating by displaying a mark that indicates "I’m great" while actually being just average. Scientists hypothesize that social interactions discourage cheating, but demonstrations of such interactions have been elusive.

Tibbetts noticed that for wasps in the species Polistes dominulus, the facial markings varied among individuals. Because these wasps are social insects that form multi-queen nests, she wondered whether the markings had significance to the wasps.

Researchers already knew that in such nests, the wasps establish a dominance hierarchy by fighting. The winner, the top or alpha wasp, gets to lay more eggs and do less work than the other wasps. To see whether they could detect what signaled an alpha wasp, Tibbetts and Dale decided to stage wasp fights. She captured wild wasps and brought them back to the lab. There she paired up wasps of equal weight, put them in small plastic container and let them fight.

The wasps duked it out using a combination of pacing about, having staring contests and grappling with one another. It took the wasps between 5 minutes and two hours to sort out their differences. By analyzing videotapes of 61 wasp fights, the researchers found that the winning wasps generally had more broken-up, spotty or wavy black patterns on their faces’ yellow center.

But if the subordinate, or beta, wasp also had a broken or mottled facial pattern, the alpha wasp was more likely to keep hassling the subordinate wasp. So having a ³dishonest² face, one that signals being higher quality than you are, is a liability in the wasp world, Tibbetts said. As a final test of their hypothesis, the researchers decided to stage some fights where one wasp had been experimentally altered so her face didn¹t reflect her true quality.

After chilling wasps in a refrigerator, Tibbetts used a toothpick to apply Testor¹s model paint to their faces. Some wasps were given blotchier faces, some wasps had blotches covered up, and some wasps were just handled and had paint put on their existing blotches. Again, the team paired up wasps by size and let Oem have at it.

The wasps established dominance hierarchies, but in the cases where one wasp had a dishonest face ­ one that didn¹t match its original face ­ the fighting was more intense. In some cases, dominance was established and then fighting continued and the hierarchy flipped ­ something that never happened in wasp fights with unaltered wasps. Even if the dominance hierarchy was maintained, the unaltered wasp was much more likely to continue to harass the altered wasp. "Changing the face interfered with their establishment of a dominance hierarchy," said Tibbetts. "Our best explanation is that there’s some other information about wasp quality that doesn¹t match the altered face."

They hypothesized that there are some other signals, either chemical or behavioral, that wasps use to determine one another’s quality. When a wasp transmits mixed signals, it gets punished. "That kind of aggression has lasting repercussions," she said. "They have less time to feed and to take care of their offspring." Dale said, "Wasps have really sophisticated visual signaling systems. We’re just starting to get a window into the kinds of messages they’re telling each other."

Tibbetts’ next step is investigating how the wasps’ facial patterns affect other aspects of their social interactions.

Marie Jensen | UA News Services
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New type of photosynthesis discovered
17.06.2018 | Imperial College London

nachricht New ID pictures of conducting polymers discover a surprise ABBA fan
17.06.2018 | University of Warwick

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A sprinkle of platinum nanoparticles onto graphene makes brain probes more sensitive

15.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?

15.06.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Perovskite-silicon solar cell research collaboration hits 25.2% efficiency

15.06.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>