Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Worker wasps grow visual brains, queens stay in dark

Date:
January 6, 2014
Source:
Drexel University
Summary:
A queen in a paperwasp colony largely stays in the dark. The worker wasps, who fly outside to seek food and building materials, see much more of the world around them. A new study indicates that the brain regions involved in sensory perception also develop differently in these castes, according to the different behavioral reliance on the senses.

A colony of paperwasps, Apoica pallens.
Credit: Drexel University

A queen in a paperwasp colony largely stays in the dark. The worker wasps, who fly outside to seek food and building materials, see much more of the world around them. A new study indicates that the brain regions involved in sensory perception also develop differently in these castes, according to the different behavioral reliance on the senses. The study is published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Related Articles


"The wasps in different castes within a colony don't differ much genetically. The differences we see show the signature of the environment on brain development," said Sean O'Donnell, PhD, a professor in Drexel University's College of Arts and Sciences who led the study.

O'Donnell's team found that the queen wasps had smaller brain regions for processing visual information than the workers in their own colonies. The pattern held across most of the 12 species of paperwasps they studied.

Most other research in how animals' environments affect their nervous systems -- known as neuroecology -- emphasizes comparisons between the brains of different species with diverse lifestyles and behaviors, such as comparisons between nocturnal and diurnal species of birds or bats.

"The strong behavioral and ecological differences between individuals within insect colonies make them powerful tools for studying how individual brain differences come about, and their functional significance," O'Donnell said.

To test how queen-worker brain differences come about, O'Donnell's team also compared differences in queen and worker wasps' brain development across different wasp species they studied.

In species where adult wasps fight for the queen position, it would make sense for the caste brain differences to be less pronounced than in species where adult wasps emerge with their caste roles already established -- if brain development followed a preordained program for each assigned role.

Instead, the researchers found larger differences between worker and queen wasp brains in species where adult wasps fought for dominance -- a finding that suggests brain plasticity, or development in adulthood in response to environmental and behavioral needs.

O'Donnell noted that sampling juvenile wasps at multiple stages of brain development would help confirm the finding suggested by his study that only looked at adult wasp brains.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Drexel University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sean O’Donnell, Marie R. Clifford, Susan J. Bulova, Sara DeLeon, Christopher Papa, Nazaneen Zahedi. A test of neuroecological predictions using paperwasp caste differences in brain structure (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s00265-013-1667-6

Cite This Page:

Drexel University. "Worker wasps grow visual brains, queens stay in dark." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106160119.htm>.
Drexel University. (2014, January 6). Worker wasps grow visual brains, queens stay in dark. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106160119.htm
Drexel University. "Worker wasps grow visual brains, queens stay in dark." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106160119.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) A photographer got the shot of a lifetime, or rather an octopus did, when it grabbed the camera and turned it around to take an amazing picture of the photographer. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins