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, 50 (2-3), 217-23

Rank Integration in Dominance Hierarchies of Host Colonies by the Paper Wasp Social Parasite Polistes Sulcifer (Hymenoptera, Vespidae)

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Rank Integration in Dominance Hierarchies of Host Colonies by the Paper Wasp Social Parasite Polistes Sulcifer (Hymenoptera, Vespidae)

L Dapporto et al. J Insect Physiol.

Abstract

In multiple-foundress nests of the wasp Polistes dominulus, dominance hierarchies are established among foundresses, and only the dominant (=alpha) individual lays eggs. The alpha female can be distinguished from subordinate females and workers on the basis of the proportions of some hydrocarbons present on the cuticle, suggesting that chemical signaling of her reproductive status could occur. P. dominulus is also the host species of the obligate social parasite Polistes sulcifer. After aggressively usurping host colonies and behaviorally replacing the host alpha female, parasites are characterized by a change in the proportions of their cuticular hydrocarbons to match that of the host cuticular profile at both species and colony levels. In the current study, we demonstrate that P. sulcifer queens also modify their cuticular hydrocarbon proportions after usurpation to match that of the host alpha female. Parasite females, therefore, acquire the dominant rank in host colonies both reproductively and chemically by mimicking the typical alpha profile of the host. Parasite females were not able to fully inhibit ovary development in host foundresses, and 10 days after usurpation, parasites, alpha and beta foundresses show similar chemical profiles and ovarian development.

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