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 A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates
20.08.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves
17.08.2018 | Leibniz Universität Hannover

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum bugs, meet your new swatter

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates

20.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Metamolds: Molding a mold

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>