Uncovering behavior of long-dead insects

Jul 19, 2010

What can you learn from the 120 year-old body of a parasitoid wasp? Using material from museum collections, researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology report that they can tell how males wasps court their females, based on dead specimens.

Parasitoid are one of the most abundant groups of organisms on the planet. Their diversity makes it very hard to study behaviors across many species. Seraina Klopfstein from the Natural History Museum of Bern, Switzerland, and co-workers have shown that males of many species coil their antennae around those of their mates, either once or in a more complex double coil. This peculiar courtship behavior is determined by antennal structures that bring male antennal glands into intimate contact with the female's . The coiling behavior has evolved slowly and, where lost, has never re-evolved.

The researchers amputated the antennae from specimen wasps of 56 different species and transferred them from an solution into pure water. The change in viscosity between the two liquids caused the antennae, where possible, to curl and was also reproducible on species where fresh material was available. Speaking about the results, Klopfstein said: "Our method emphasizes the importance of natural history museum collections, even for areas of research that could never have been anticipated at the time those collections were built."

Explore further: Rising temperatures can be hard on dogs

More information: The evolution of antennal courtship in diplazontine parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Diplazontinae), Seraina Klopfstein, Donald L.J. Quicke and Christian Kropf, BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press), www.biomedcentral.com/bmcevolbiol/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tiny UK parasitoid wasp discovered

Oct 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new species of parasitoid wasp that feeds on a common whitefly pest has been discovered in the UK by a Natural History Museum scientist.

Why do some queen bees eat their worker bee's eggs?

Dec 04, 2006

Worker bees, wasps, and ants are often considered neuter. But in many species they are females with ovaries, who although unable to mate, can lay unfertilized eggs which turn into males if reared. For some ...

New study rewrites evolutionary history of vespid wasps

Mar 01, 2007

Scientists at the University of Illinois have conducted a genetic analysis of vespid wasps that revises the vespid family tree and challenges long-held views about how the wasps’ social behaviors evolved.

Recommended for you

Giant anteaters kill two hunters in Brazil

14 minutes ago

Giant anteaters in Brazil have killed two hunters in separate incidents, raising concerns about the animals' loss of habitat and the growing risk of dangerous encounters with people, researchers said.

Rising temperatures can be hard on dogs

18 hours ago

The "dog days of summer" are here, but don't let the phrase fool you. This hot time of year can be dangerous for your pup, says a Kansas State University veterinarian.

User comments : 0