Multiple reproductive strategies in a tropical hover wasp

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D. Fanelli, Jacobus Jan Boomsma, S. Turillazzi

Reproductive skew theory has been an important component of efforts to design a unifying theory of social evolution, as it aims to explain patterns of reproductive partitioning in animal societies as a function of relatedness, group productivity, fighting ability and ecological constraints on independent reproduction. However, empirical tests of the theory have often provided ambiguous or non-conclusive results, assumptions behind alternative models have rarely been tested, and theoretical elaborations have shown the limitations of the reproductive skew approach. Here we analyse a relatively large sample of colonies of the Stenogastrine wasp Parischnogaster mellyi with a powerful set of DNA microsatellite markers. We show that various apparently stable forms of social organisation co-exist in a single population, and that sharing of reproduction between related and unrelated egg-laying females occurs in some of the nests. Present reproductive skew theory appears to be at best partly sufficient to account for the observed complexity of social organisation. The observed patterns of colony composition and reproductive sharing are weakly consistent with the hypothesis of reproductive transactions, while they can more parsimoniously be explained by the life-history characteristics of the species.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)190-199
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Keywords Reproductive skew - Social behaviour - stenogastrine wasp - Life-history - Microsatellites

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