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Evolutionary and Ecological Pressures Shaping Social Wasps Collective Defenses

Detoni, M; Feás, X; Jeanne, RL; Loope, KJ; O'Donnell, S; Santoro, D; Sumner, S; (2021) Evolutionary and Ecological Pressures Shaping Social Wasps Collective Defenses. Annals of the Entomological Society of America , 114 (5) pp. 581-595. 10.1093/aesa/saaa063. Green open access

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Abstract

Social insects are well known for their aggressive (stinging) responses to a nest disturbance. Still, colonies are attacked due to the high-protein brood cached in their nests. Social wasps have evolved a variety of defense mechanisms to exclude predators, including nest construction and coordinated stinging response. Which predatory pressures have shaped the defensive strategies displayed by social wasps to protect their colonies? We reviewed the literature and explored social media to compare direct and indirect (claims and inferences) evidence of predators attacking individuals and colonies of wasps. Individual foraging wasps are predominantly preyed upon by birds and other arthropods, whereas predators on wasp brood vary across subfamilies of Vespidae. Polistinae wasps are predominantly preyed upon by ants and Passeriformes birds, whereas Vespinae are predominantly preyed upon by badgers, bears, and hawks. Ants and hornets are the primary predators of Stenogastrinae colonies. The probability of predation by these five main Orders of predators varies across continents. However, biogeographical variation in prey–predator trends was best predicted by climate (temperate vs. tropical). In social wasps’ evolutionary history, when colonies were small, predation pressure likely came from small mammals, lizards, or birds. As colonies evolved larger size and larger rewards for predators, the increased predation pressure likely selected for more effective defensive responses. Today, primary predators of large wasp colonies seem to be highly adapted to resist or avoid aggressive nest defense, such as large birds and mammals (which were not yet present when eusociality evolved in wasps), and ants.

Type: Article
Title: Evolutionary and Ecological Pressures Shaping Social Wasps Collective Defenses
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/aesa/saaa063
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/saaa063
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10121108
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