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Title: Interaction between the paper wasp Polistes dominulus and its social parasite, Polistes semenowi
Author: Almond, E. J.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Polistes dominulus is a social paper wasp found around the Mediterranean basin and in North America. Queens of the social parasite Polistes semenowi invade the nests of P. dominulus and raise parasite offspring by exploiting the foraging effort and nest defence provided by host wasps. Recent studies have suggested that nest infiltration by the parasite involves "hacking" into the host's nestmate recognition system, so that hosts accept the parasite as one of their own. However, this mechanism is employed only after an initial violent attack upon the nest, which appears to be resisted by hosts. It is therefore unclear whether P. dominulus females are truly deceived by the parasite. The aim of this thesis is to investigate possible strategies that hosts can adopt when faced with parasite attack, if they are not completely deceived by the parasite's subterfuge. An obvious host counter-strategy is simply to abandon the nest altogether when attacked by a parasite, then pursue other reproductive options such as joining another host nest or re-nesting. I investigate whether host adults do indeed abandon, and what choices abandoning hosts have. Hosts that stay on a parasitized nest may still directly or indirectly gain fitness by rearing a reduced number of host offspring. I investigate this possibility using a combination of video recording of offspring feeding in the field, and microsatellite analysis to determine offspring parentage. In particular, I focus on (1) whether hosts can still lay eggs after parasite invasion, (2) differential provisioning: the possibility that host adults feed related offspring in preference to offspring of the parasite. This is examined both in the presence and absence of the parasite adult. I also compare host helping effort and aggression levels on parasitized and unparasitized nests.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available