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Aggression by polyembryonic wasp soldiers correlates with kinship but not resource competition


Kin selection theory predicts that individuals will show less aggression and more altruism towards relatives1,2. However, recent theoretical developments suggest that with limited dispersal, competition between relatives can override the effects of relatedness3,4,5,6,7,8,9. The predicted and opposing influences of relatedness and competition are difficult to approach experimentally because conditions that increase average relatedness among individuals also tend to increase competition. Polyembryonic wasps in the family Encyrtidae are parasites whose eggs undergo clonal division to produce large broods10. These insects have also evolved a caste system: some embryos in a clone develop into reproductive larvae that mature into adults, whereas others develop into sterile soldier larvae that defend siblings from competitors11,12,13,14. In a brood from a single egg, reproductive altruism by soldiers reflects clone-level allocation to defence at the cost of reproduction, with no conflict between individuals. When multiple eggs are laid into a host, inter-clone conflicts of interest arise. Here we report that soldier aggression in Copidosoma floridanum is inversely related to the genetic relatedness of competitors but shows no correlation with the level of resource competition.

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Figure 1: Life cycle of C. floridanum in its host T. ni.


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This work was supported in part by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK), the National Science Foundation (US), the University of Georgia Experiment Station, and the Conseil General de la Region (France).

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Correspondence to Michael R. Strand.

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Giron, D., Dunn, D., Hardy, I. et al. Aggression by polyembryonic wasp soldiers correlates with kinship but not resource competition. Nature 430, 676–679 (2004).

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