Behavioural and genetic approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of deterrent marking by a parasitoid wasp

in Behaviour
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Some parasitoids deposit chemical signals after oviposition as an indication that the host has already been parasitized. This marking can deter subsequent conspecifics or one’s self from laying eggs in previously exploited hosts, thus reducing the risk of superparasitism. We investigated the egg laying behaviour of the parasitoid wasp Hyposoter horticola. In a laboratory experiment, we tested whether oviposition, post-oviposition marking, or both together deter subsequent oviposition by conspecifics. We then tested the effectiveness of the deterring mark under natural conditions using maternity assignment based on 14 polymorphic DNA microsatellite markers. The behavioural experiment showed that patch marking deters conspecifics from probing the host eggs, and oviposition deters those that probe from laying eggs in previously parasitized host clusters. These results were confirmed by the maternity assignment showing that under natural conditions, host egg clusters are primarily parasitized by a single H. horticola female.

Behavioural and genetic approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of deterrent marking by a parasitoid wasp

in Behaviour



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    Female Hyposoter horticola parasitizing a Melitaea cinxia egg cluster. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    Proportion of visits in which the wasps probed the eggs (a) and duration of the probing (b) for control (UP + UM), parasitized + marked (P + M), parasitized (P + UM), and marked (UP + M) host egg clusters. Different letters indicate a significant difference (p<0.001). ∗∗∗ Significant difference (p<0.001); NS, no significant difference.

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    Proportion of visits in which the wasps marked the eggs for control (UP + UM), parasitized + marked (P + M), parasitized (P + UM), and marked (UP + M) host egg clusters (a) and duration of the marking for control (UP + UM) and parasitized (P + UM) host egg clusters (b). Different letters indicate a significant difference (p<0.05). ∗∗∗ Significant difference (p<0.001).

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    (a) Number of host clusters parasitized by one to eight different H. horticola females and (b) number of caterpillars in the host cluster as a function of the number of females that parasitized the host cluster, in ten host clusters naturally parasitized in the field.

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    Melitaea cinxia caterpillars parasitized by H. horticola in eight host clusters (the two clusters parasitized by only one female are not represented here). Different shades of grey represent the proportion of parasitoid offspring mothered by different females in each host cluster. Striped grey represents offspring of unknown mothers (DNA not good enough for genotyping).


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