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.

"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 July 25, 2014 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 July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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