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Reproduction and signals regulating worker policing under identical hormonal control in social wasps

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In social Hymenoptera, fertility and fertility signalling are often under identical hormonal control, and it has been suggested that such hormonal pleiotropies can help to maintain signal honesty. In the common wasp Vespula vulgaris, for example, fertile queens have much higher juvenile hormone (JH) titers than workers, and JH also controls the production of chemical fertility cues present on the females' cuticle. To regulate reproductive division of labour, queens use these fertility cues in two distinct ways: as queen pheromones that directly suppress the workers' reproduction as well as to mark queen eggs and enable the workers to recognize and police eggs laid by other workers. Here, we investigated the hormonal pleiotropy hypothesis by testing if experimental treatment with the JH analogue methoprene could enable the workers to lay eggs that evade policing. In support of this hypothesis, we find that methoprene-treated workers laid more eggs, and that the chemical profiles of their eggs were more queen-like, thereby causing fewer of their eggs to be policed compared to in the control. Overall, our results identify JH as a key regulator of both reproduction and the production of egg marking pheromones that mediate policing behaviour in eusocial wasps.
Tijdschrift: Scientific Reports
Issue: 1
Volume: 10
Aantal pagina's: 10
Jaar van publicatie:2020