Article

Complex social behaviour can select for variability in visual features: a case study in Polistes wasps.

Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.29). 10/2004; 271(1551):1955-60. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2784
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The ability to recognize individuals is common in animals; however, we know little about why the phenotypic variability necessary for individual recognition has evolved in some animals but not others. One possibility is that natural selection favours variability in some social contexts but not in others. Polistes fuscatus wasps have variable facial and abdominal markings used for individual recognition within their complex societies. Here, I explore whether social behaviour can select for variability by examining the relationship between social behaviour and variability in visual features (marking variability) across social wasp taxa. Analysis using a concentrated changes test demonstrates that marking variability is significantly associated with nesting strategy. Species with flexible nest-founding strategies have highly variable markings, whereas species without flexible nest-founding strategies have low marking variability. These results suggest that: (i) individual recognition may be widespread in the social wasps, and (ii) natural selection may play a role in the origin and maintenance of the variable distinctive markings. Theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that species with flexible nesting strategies have reproductive transactions, a type of complex social behaviour predicted to require individual recognition. Therefore, the reproductive transactions of flexible species may select for highly variable individuals who are easy to identify as individuals. Further, selection for distinctiveness may provide an alternative explanation for the evolution of phenotypic diversity.

0 Bookmarks
 · 
103 Views
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Some primates and one species of paper wasp recognize faces using specific processing strategies to extract individual identity information from conspecific faces. Explanations for the evolution of face specialization typically focus on the complexity associated with individual recognition because all currently identified species with face specialization use faces for individual recognition. In the present study, we show an independent evolution of face specialization in a paper wasp species with facial patterns that signal quality rather than individual identity. Quality signals are simpler to process than individual identity signals because quality signals do not require simultaneous integration across multiple stimuli or learning and memory. Therefore, the results of the present study suggest that the complexity of processing may not be the key factor favouring the evolution of specialization. Instead, the predictable location of socially important signals relative to other anatomical features may allow easy categorization of features, thereby favouring specialized visual processing. Given that visual quality signals are found in many taxa, specific-processing mechanisms for social signals may be widespread. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, ●●, ●●–●●.
    Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 10/2014; · 2.54 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: To be effective, signals must propagate through the environment and be detected by receivers. As a result, signal form evolves in response to both the constraints imposed by the transmission environment and receiver perceptual abilities. Little work has examined the extent to which signals may act as selective forces on receiver sensory systems to improve the efficacy of communication. If receivers benefit from accurate signal assessment, selection could favour sensory organs that improve discrimination of established signals. Here, we provide evidence that visual resolution coevolves with visual signals in Polistes wasps. Multiple Polistes species have variable facial patterns that function as social signals, whereas other species lack visual signals. Analysis of 19 Polistes species shows that maximum eye facet size is positively associated with both eye size and presence of visual signals. Relatively larger facets within the eye's acute zone improve resolution of small images, such as wasp facial signals. Therefore, sensory systems may evolve to optimize signal assessment. Sensory adaptations to facilitate signal detection may represent an overlooked area of the evolution of animal communication.
    Biology letters 04/2014; 10(4):20140254. · 3.43 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Some animals minimize the high costs of aggressive conflict by using conventional signals of agonistic ability to assess rivals prior to interacting. Conventional signals are more controversial than other signals of agonistic ability because they lack an inherent physical or physiological link with their bearer’s agonistic ability. Here, we test whether the variable brown facial stripes in Polistes exclamans paper wasps function as a conventional signal. Polistes exclamans were given the option of challenging or avoiding a rival with an experimentally altered facial pattern. Our results show that rival assessment is based on the facial patterns of rivals, as well as an individual’s own size, facial patterns, and nesting strategy. Individuals with larger body size and larger brown facial stripes were more likely to challenge rivals than individuals with smaller body size and smaller brown facial stripes. In addition, large individuals were more likely to challenge rivals with large brown facial stripes than small individuals, while an individual’s own body size did not influence whether or not they challenged rivals with small brown stripes. Individuals who previously nested in multiple queen groups approached rivals more rapidly than individuals who previously nested alone, suggesting that social experience also plays a role in rival assessment. Finally, rivals with small facial stripes were challenged more rapidly than those with large facial stripes. These results demonstrate that P. exclamans facial patterns function as a signal used to minimize the cost of conflict. However, individuals do not make simple decisions based on their rival’s signal alone, as an individual’s own social experience and agonistic abilities also influence rival assessment decisions.
    Ethology 12/2011; 117(12). · 1.56 Impact Factor

Preview

Download
0 Downloads