Host acceptance and sex allocation of Nasonia wasps in response to conspecifics and heterospecifics

A. B. F. Ivens, D. M. Shuker, L. W. Beukeboom, I. Pen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Species recognition is an important aspect of an organism's biology. Here, we consider how parasitoid wasps vary their reproductive decisions when their offspring face intra- and interspecific competition for resources and mates. We use host acceptance and sex ratio behaviour to test whether female Nasonia vitripennis and Nasonia longicornis discriminate between conspecifics and heterospecifics when ovipositing. We tested pairs of conspecific or heterospecific females ovipositing either simultaneously or sequentially on a single host, using strains varying in their recent history of sympatry. Both N. vitripennis and N. longicornis rejected parasitized hosts more often than unparasitized hosts, although females were more likely to superparasitize their own species in the sequential treatment. However, sex ratio behaviour did not vary, suggesting similar responses towards conspecifics and heterospecifics. This contrasts with theory predicting that heterospecifics should not influence sex ratios as their offspring do not influence local mate competition, where conspecifics would. These non-adaptive sex ratios reinforce the lack of adaptive kin discrimination in N. vitripennis and suggest a behavioural constraint. Discrimination between closely related species is therefore context dependent in Nasonia. We suggest that isolating mechanisms associated with the speciation process have influenced behaviour to a greater extent than selection on sex ratios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3663-3669
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1673
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2009


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