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Stubborn wasp queens pass their personality on to their colony

作者:边郴瞧    发布时间:2019-04-04 04:15:24    

Chameleons Eye/REX/Shutterstock By Yasemin Saplakoglu Annoying and stubborn! That’s how most of us would characterise the wasps that buzz around our food when we try to enjoy a quiet lunch outside. But there may be more to wasp personality than this, according to work led by Colin Wright at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Wright’s team has found that it could predict paper wasp behaviour six weeks before they hatch – by observing the queen. This suggests wasps get their personalities from their mothers, either by nature or nurture. Often, the insect group founder and offspring engage in different day-to-day activities, making it challenging to understand resemblances in their personality. Most studies instead define insect personality based on interactions of the entire group, largely ignoring the founder of the colony. Queen paper wasps do some of the same jobs that workers will do once they hatch: she builds her nest, prepares her food, brings the water and lays her eggs. Once the workers hatch, they take over many of these duties. Wright and his colleagues gathered 30 queen wasps and their nests from rooftops in Pennsylvania. Using the end of a watercolour brush, the team gently poked the queens repeatedly and observed how they reacted. Some didn’t seem to be bothered after 50 pokes and remained in the nest, others could handle only two before flying away. The very aggressive ones even bit and stung the brush. The researchers defined the queen wasps’ behaviour as “obstinate” if they refused to fly away after repeated poking. Since they couldn’t poke each worker wasp simultaneously when they hatched, they vibrated colonies and introduced a semblance of a moving predator in the form of a ticking metronome, instead. The worker wasps responded to the threats in the same way as their queen had responded to the paintbrush. So if a queen is unwilling or too stubborn to leave the nest so are the worker wasps. For a queen, though, leaving the nest usually means escaping. For a worker, it means attacking the threat. These difference in personality may affect the survival of wasp colonies in the wild. “You can predict if colonies will survive in the wild, by looking at the queen,” says Wright. But, the success of survival tactics depends on the type of predator. Attacking a small mammal or bird is more dangerous than attacking another wasp that’s looking to take over the nest, he says. Also, a stubborn queen may be more likely to defend her nest from other wasp usurpers, whereas the same stubbornness in her offspring may mean they are less likely to fly out and attack a predator. Wright and his team now want to see if these shared personality traits are a result of genetic inheritance or upbringing. “This study raises the possibility that there are genetic differences among queens that are actually reflected in the personality of their offspring,” says Michael Breed an ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who focuses on social behaviour of bees. “If you look at how wasp personalities vary among nests, it makes you wonder if there are different strategies for survival.” Anyone who has been stung by a wasp knows that at least one of their methods of survival is effective. “I’m so horrified of these wasps,” says Wright. “But don’t forget they have personalities too.” Journal reference: Animal Behaviour, DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.11.025 Read more: Inside a wasp’s head: Here’s what it sees to find its way home; Ant choosiness reveals they all have different personalities More on these topics:

 

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