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!
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University
A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.
In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...
Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
18.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2017 | Studies and Analyses
18.12.2017 | Medical Engineering