University of Sussex
Holt, Lauren Adele.pdf (15.4 MB)

Genetic structure, reproductive skew, and the evolution of sociality in the hover wasp Liostenogaster flavolineata

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posted on 2023-06-09, 02:52 authored by Lauren Adele Holt
In this thesis, I use field experiments to test whether a potentially universal benefit of sociality operates in the facultatively eusocial hover wasp Liostenogaster flavolineata (Stenogastrinae). The Central Limit Theorem (CLT) is a potential reason why individuals come together to provision offspring. I report the results of an original experiment designed to test the central tenets of the CLT by manipulating the variance of food inputs to L. flavolineata nests. I show that with increased variance there was no effect on levels of brood abortion, or larval development rates. However, some assumptions of the CLT were found to hold, such as smaller groups producing more brood per-capita with higher rates of brood removal. Theoretically, genetic relatedness between adult nest-mates should have an important influence on how reproduction is partitioned (reproductive skew). However, reproductive skew in newly initiated colonies of L. flavolineata, where nest-mate relatedness is low, is not significantly different to that in mature colonies, and is unaffected by group size. Genetic relatedness between subordinates and the dominant egg-layer could potentially vary systematically according to position in the age-based queue to inherit the egg-laying role in L. flavolineata groups. Using newly developed microsatellite markers, in combination with manipulations to determine queue position, I test for systematic associations between a worker’s relationship to the dominant, inheritance rank and group size. I find that there is an increasing likelihood for daughters and nieces to occur at the lowest ranks, i.e. those with the greatest indirect fitness pay-offs and greatest foraging effort. I also investigate how genetic relatedness and group size influence foraging effort, and suggest that smaller groups might experience effects of the CLT, but work harder to compensate. I integrate theories of reproductive skew and my findings from L. flavolineata into a framework of potential behavioural concessions in larger groups.


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University of Sussex

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