A new study indicates that the brain regions involved in sensory perception also develop differently in these castes, according to the different behavioral reliance on the senses. The study is published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.
A colony of paperwasps, Apoica pallens
“The wasps in different castes within a colony don’t differ much genetically. The differences we see show the signature of the environment on brain development,” said Sean O’Donnell, PhD, a professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences who led the study. O’Donnell’s team found that the queen wasps had smaller brain regions for processing visual information than the workers in their own colonies. The pattern held across most of the 12 species of paperwasps they studied.
Most other research in how animals’ environments affect their nervous systems – known as neuroecology – emphasizes comparisons between the brains of different species with diverse lifestyles and behaviors, such as comparisons between nocturnal and diurnal species of birds or bats.
“The strong behavioral and ecological differences between individuals within insect colonies make them powerful tools for studying how individual brain differences come about, and their functional significance,” O’Donnell said.
To test how queen-worker brain differences come about, O’Donnell’s team also compared differences in queen and worker wasps’ brain development across different wasp species they studied. In species where adult wasps fight for the queen position, it would make sense for the caste brain differences to be less pronounced than in species where adult wasps emerge with their caste roles already established – if brain development followed a preordained program for each assigned role.
Instead, the researchers found larger differences between worker and queen wasp brains in species where adult wasps fought for dominance – a finding that suggests brain plasticity, or development in adulthood in response to environmental and behavioral needs. O’Donnell noted that sampling juvenile wasps at multiple stages of brain development would help confirm the finding suggested by his study that only looked at adult wasp brains.
Rachel Ewing | EurekAlert!
Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel
The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering