The jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis is considered the "Drosophila melanogaster of the Hymenoptera." This diminutive wasp offers insect geneticists a means for applying haplo-diploid genetics to the analysis of developmental processes. As in bees, haploid males develop from unfertilized eggs, while diploid females develop from fertilized eggs. Nasonia's advantageous combination of haplo-diploid genetics and ease of handling in the laboratory facilitates screening the entire genome for recessive mutations affecting a developmental process of interest. This approach is currently directed toward understanding the evolution of embryonic pattern formation by comparing Nasonia embryogenesis to that of Drosophila. Haplo-diploid genetics also facilitates developing molecular maps and mapping polygenic traits. Moreover, Nasonia embryos are also proving amenable to cell biological analysis. These capabilities are being exploited to understand a variety of behavioral, developmental, and evolutionary processes, ranging from cytoplasmic incompatibility to the evolution of wing morphology.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.