William T. Wcislo's research while affiliated with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and other places

Publications (193)

Article
Some Azteca ants are well-known symbionts that defend their Cecropia host plants against herbivory, although there is considerable variability in behavior among colonies, conditions, and species. In exchange, ants receive food, and also shelter within the plants’ internodes. Here we demonstrate that ants repair damage to the host plant when their b...
Article
Full-text available
Early in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, many national public health authorities implemented non-pharmaceutical interventions to mitigate disease outbreaks. Panamá established mandatory mask use two months after its first documented case. Initial compliance was high, but diverse masks were used in public areas. We studied behavioral dynamics of mask use t...
Article
Full-text available
Fungi in the genus Escovopsis (Ascomycota: Hypocreales) are prevalent associates of the complex symbiosis between fungus-growing ants (Tribe Attini), the ants’ cultivated basidiomycete fungi and a consortium of both beneficial and harmful microbes found within the ants’ garden communities. Some Escovopsis spp. have been shown to attack the ants’ cu...
Article
The hypothesis that evolved behaviors play a determining role in facilitating and impeding the evolution of other traits has been discussed for more than 100 years with little consensus beyond an agreement that the ideas are theoretically plausible in accord with the Modern Synthesis. Many recent reviews of the genomic, epigenetic, and developmenta...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Early in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, many national public health authorities implemented non-pharmaceutical interventions to mitigate disease outbreaks. Panama established mandatory mask use two months after its first documented case. Initial compliance was high, but diverse masks were used in public areas. We studied behavioral dynamics o...
Article
In a society, several individuals can help to execute a task otherwise impossible to achieve individually. However, the unnecessary interference of another individual in a solitary task could delay task execution. We studied task interference in acacia ants (Pseudomyrmex spinicola) performing a foraging task. Foraging is solitary: a single worker c...
Article
Full-text available
A well-documented phenomenon among social insects is that brain changes occur prior to or at the onset of certain experiences, potentially serving to prime the brain for specific tasks. This insight comes almost exclusively from studies considering developmental maturation in females. As a result, it is unclear whether age-related brain plasticity...
Article
Full-text available
Marine multicellular organisms host a diverse collection of bacteria, archaea, microbial eukaryotes, and viruses that form their microbiome. Such host-associated microbes can significantly influence the host’s physiological capacities; however, the identity and functional role(s) of key members of the microbiome (“core microbiome”) in most marine h...
Article
Full-text available
Bees, ants, and wasps are well known to visually navigate when traveling between their nests and foraging sites. When leaving their nest, landmarks in the vicinity are memorized and used upon return to locate the nest entrance.¹,² The Neotropical nocturnal sweat bee Megalopta genalis navigates under the forest canopy at light intensities ten times...
Article
Full-text available
Queen pheromones evolved independently in multiple eusocial insect lineages, in which they mediate reproductive conflict by inhibiting worker ovarian development. Although fundamentally important for reproductive division of labor – the hallmark of eusociality – their evolutionary origins are enigmatic. Here, we analyze cuticular and Dufour’s gland...
Article
Full-text available
Antagonistic interactions between host and parasites are often embedded in networks of interacting species, in which hosts may be attacked by competing parasites species, and parasites may infect more than one host species. To better understand the evolution of host defenses and parasite counterdefenses in the context of a multihost, multiparasite...
Preprint
Full-text available
Life’s most dramatic innovations, from the emergence of self-replicating molecules to highly-integrated societies, often involve increases in biological complexity. Some groups traverse different levels of complexity, providing a framework to identify key factors shaping these evolutionary transitions. Halictid bees span the transition from individ...
Article
Full-text available
The Basilica Santa María la Antigua Cathedral in Panama is an architectural jewel in the Republic of Panama. The current building was built in 1792 and consecrated in 1796. This study aims to identify the woody plant species that constitute part of the interior of the Cathedral and of a sculpture that was exhibited for many years on the façade. Fiv...
Article
Full-text available
During crop domestication, human farmers traded greater productivity for higher crop vulnerability outside specialized cultivation conditions. We found a similar domestication trade-off across the major co-evolutionary transitions in the farming systems of attine ants. First, the fundamental nutritional niches of cultivars narrowed over ~60 million...
Article
Full-text available
Since all forms of mimicry are based on perceptual deception, the sensory ecology of the intended receiver is of paramount importance to test the necessary precondition for mimicry to occur, i.e. model-mimic misidentification, and to gain insight in the origin and evolutionary trajectory of the signals. Here we test the potential for aggressive mim...
Article
Full-text available
Developmental plasticity generates phenotypic variation, but how it contributes to evolutionary change is unclear. Phenotypes of individuals in caste-based (eusocial) societies are particularly sensitive to developmental processes, and the evolutionary origins of eusociality may be rooted in developmental plasticity of ancestral forms. We used an i...
Article
Full-text available
Gynandromorphy is an anomaly that results in an organism phenotypically expressing both male and female characteristics. Here we describe the first gynandromorph of the bee species Megalopta amoena (Spinola, 1853) (Halictidae, Augochlorini) and the second record of this anomaly within the genus Megalopta . Additionally, we analyzed the bee’s circad...
Article
Full-text available
A recent restoration of the Basilica Cathedral in Casco Viejo, Panamá, revealed that prior to 1871–1876 female orchid bees ( Eufriesea surinamensis ) built large nesting aggregations high above the main altar, based on physical evidence dating to a nineteenth-century restoration. Bees constructed cells in approximately 120 clusters in six different...
Article
Full-text available
The significance of symbioses between eukaryotic hosts and microbes extends from the organismal to the ecosystem level and underpins the health of Earth’s most threatened marine ecosystems. Despite rapid growth in research on host-associated microbes, from individual microbial symbionts to host-associated consortia of significantly relevant taxa, l...
Preprint
Full-text available
The significance of mutualisms between eukaryotic hosts and microbes extends from the organismal to the ecosystem level, and mutualistic symbioses underpin the health of Earth’s most threatened marine ecosystems. Despite rapid growth in research on host-associated microbes (microbiomes), very little is known about their interactions for the vast ma...
Preprint
Full-text available
The significance of mutualisms between eukaryotic hosts and microbes extends from the organismal to the ecosystem level, and mutualistic symbioses underpin the health of Earth’s most threatened marine ecosystems. Despite rapid growth in research on host-associated microbes (microbiomes), very little is known about their interactions for the vast ma...
Article
Full-text available
Tropical habitats are characterized by strong wet and dry seasons, but the effects of seasonality on the costs and benefit of sociality are largely unknown for tropical insects. This is an important gap in our understanding of sociobiology because many social bees and wasps are in the tropics. We found evidence of seasonal effects on the costs and...
Article
A new strategy for the synthesis of 23-, 25-, 27-, and 29-membered (Z)-selective unsaturated and saturated macrocyclic lactones from commercially available 16- and 17-membered macrocyclic lactones and bromoalcohols by Wittig reaction, Yamaguchi macrolactonization, and photoinduced decarboxylative radical macrolactonization is described. The positio...
Article
Full-text available
Parasites and their hosts use different strategies to overcome the defenses of the other, often resulting in an evolutionary arms race. Limited animal studies have explored the differential responses of hosts when challenged by differential parasite loads and different developmental stages of a parasite. The fungus-growing ant Trachymyrmex sp. 10 e...
Article
Full-text available
A classic prediction of kin selection theory is that a mixed population of social and solitary nests of haplodiploid insects should exhibit a split sex ratio among offspring: female biased in social nests, male biased in solitary nests. Here, we provide the first evidence of a solitary-social split sex ratio, using the sweat bee Megalopta genalis (...
Article
Full-text available
Alkali bees (Nomia melanderi) are solitary relatives of the halictine bees, which have become an important model for the evolution of social behavior, but for which few solitary comparisons exist. These ground-nesting bees defend their developing offspring against pathogens and predators, and thus exhibit some of the key traits that preceded insect...
Article
Full-text available
A holistic understanding of superorganism biology requires study of colony sociometry, or the quantitative relationships among growth, nest architecture, morphology, and behavior. For ant colonies that obligately nest within plant hosts, their sociometry is likely intertwined with the plant, which has implications for the evolution, strength, and s...
Preprint
Full-text available
Alkali bees ( Nomia melanderi ) are solitary relatives of the halictine bees, which have become an important model for the evolution of social behavior, but for which few solitary comparisons exist. These ground-nesting bees defend their developing offspring against pathogens and predators, and thus exhibit some of the key traits that preceded inse...
Article
Full-text available
In ants, bees, and other social Hymenoptera, alarm pheromones are widely employed to coordinate colony nest defense. In that context, alarm pheromones elicit innate species-specific defensive behaviors. Therefore, in terms of classical conditioning, an alarm pheromone could act as an unconditioned stimulus (US). Here, we test this hypothesis by est...
Article
Full-text available
For interspecific mutualisms, the behavior of one partner can influence the fitness of the other, especially in the case of symbiotic mutualisms where partners live in close physical association for much of their lives. Behavioral effects on fitness may be particularly important if either species in these long-term relationships displays personalit...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the ecological benefits that may select for the evolution of living in groups rather than solitarily is key to understanding the evolution of social cooperation. Defense against natural enemies, such as parasites and predators, is generally acknowledged to be such a benefit, but most studies focus only on predators. Among the bees, pa...
Article
Full-text available
Path integration is a widespread navigational strat- egy in which directional changes and distance covered are continuously integrated on an outward journey, enabling a straight-line return to home. Bees use vision for this task—a celestial-cue-based visual compass and an optic-flow-based visual odometer—but the underlying neural integration mechan...
Article
Developmental plasticity may accelerate the evolution of phenotypic novelty through genetic accommodation, but studies of genetic accommodation often lack knowledge of the ancestral state to place selected traits in an evolutionary context. A promising approach for assessing genetic accommodation involves using a comparative framework to ask whethe...
Article
Full-text available
Light represents one of the most reliable environmental cues in the biological world. In this review we focus on the evolutionary consequences to changes in organismal photic environments, with a specific focus on the class Insecta. Particular emphasis is placed on transitional forms that can be used to track the evolution from (1) diurnal to noctu...
Data
Fig. S4. Survival curves for all time points for second conidia exposure experiment.
Article
Full-text available
Attine ants evolved farming 55-60 My before humans. Although evolutionarily derived leafcutter ants achieved industrial-scale farming, extant species from basal attine genera continue to farm loosely domesticated fungal cultivars capable of pursuing independent reproductive interests. We used feeding experiments with the basal attine Mycocepurus sm...
Data
Supplementary Figures 1 - 18, Supplementary Tables 1 - 29, Supplementary Methods and Supplementary References
Article
Full-text available
The attine ant-fungus agricultural symbiosis evolved over tens of millions of years, producing complex societies with industrial-scale farming analogous to that of humans. Here we document reciprocal shifts in the genomes and transcriptomes of seven fungus-farming ant species and their fungal cultivars. We show that ant subsistence farming probably...
Data
Gene/transcript accessions, ortholog assignments, and inferred positively selected gene families for the sequenced attine ants and fungal cultivars
Data
Number of annotated fungal genes in each CAZy family
Article
Full-text available
Insects rely on the olfactory system to detect a vast diversity of airborne molecules in their environment. Highly sensitive olfactory tuning is expected to evolve when detection of a particular chemical with great precision is required in the context of foraging and/or finding mates. Male neotropical orchid bees (Euglossini) collect odoriferous su...
Article
Fungus-growing ants (Attini) are abundant and diverse, yet only one taxon of flies (Phoridae) and one of wasps (Diapriinae) are known parasitoids, and the biology of most species is not well known. Here we describe the first evidence for an ant parasitoid in the family Chloropidae (Diptera), in which larvae of Pseudogaurax paratolmos Wheeler, new s...
Article
Full-text available
Fungus‐growing ants (Attini) have evolved an obligate dependency upon a basidiomycete fungus that they cultivate as their food. Less well known is that the crop fungus is also used by many attine species to cover their eggs, larvae and pupae. The adaptive functional significance of this brood covering is poorly understood. One hypothesis to account...
Article
Full-text available
In eusocial nests, colony task are divided among queens and workers, but how this division of labor develops is unknown for most species. We compared division of labor and aggressive behavior among queens and workers in the facultatively eusocial bee, Megalopta genalis, using nests with established queen-worker pairs and nests in which the incipien...
Article
Full-text available
Small carpenter bees (Ceratinini) are a key taxon to understanding the transition from subsocial to social behaviour, as all documented groups are long-lived and tend to their young periodically throughout development, though the behaviour of multiple lineages is little known. This study provides the first evidence for social nesting in three Neotr...
Article
Full-text available
Like their diurnal relatives, Megalopta genalis use visual information to control flight. Unlike their diurnal relatives, however, they do this at extremely low light intensities. Although Megalopta has developed optical specializations to increase visual sensitivity, theoretical studies suggest that this enhanced sensitivity does not enable them t...
Article
Full-text available
Transcriptomes provide excellent foundational resources for mechanistic and evolutionary analyses of complex traits. We present a developmental transcriptome for the facultatively eusocial bee Megalopta genalis, which represents a potential transition point in the evolution of eusociality. A de novo transcriptome assembly of Megalopta genalis was g...
Article
Full-text available
As a result of different brood cell provisioning strategies, nest-making insects may differ in the extent to which adults regularly provide extended parental care to their brood beyond nest defense. Mass-provisioning species cache the entire food supply needed for larval development prior to the oviposition and typically seal the brood cell. It is...
Article
Full-text available
Plants host a vast diversity of fungal symbionts inside their tissues that live in close proximity with each other to form rich and dynamic communities. Although endophytes can affect plant-herbivore interactions in several ways, it is still not known to what extent such effects are influenced by the properties of endophyte communities or by partic...
Article
Full-text available
Fungus-farming ant colonies vary four to five orders of magnitude in size. They employ compounds from actinomycete bacteria and exocrine glands as antimicrobial agents. Atta colonies have millions of ants and are particularly relevant for understanding hygienic strategies as they have abandoned their ancestors' prime dependence on antibiotic-based...
Article
Full-text available
One of the hallmarks of eusociality is that workers forego their own reproduction to assist their mother in raising siblings. This seemingly altruistic behaviour may benefit workers if gains in indirect fitness from rearing siblings outweigh the loss of direct fitness. If worker presence is advantageous to mothers, however, eusociality may evolve w...
Article
Full-text available
Group size in both multicellular organisms and animal societies can correlate with the degree of division of labour. For ants, the task specialization hypothesis (TSH) proposes that increased behavioural specialization enabled by larger group size corresponds to anatomical specialization of worker brains. Alternatively, the social brain hypothesis...
Conference Paper
One of the key features of eusociality is the seemingly altruistic behavior of workers who forego their own reproduction to assist their mother in raising siblings. This behavior may be adaptive if gains in indirect fitness from rearing siblings outweigh the loss of direct fitness. If the presence of workers is sufficiently advantageous to mothers,...
Article
Fungal symbionts that colonize leaf tissue asymptomatically (endophytes) can alter the foraging behaviour of leaf-cutting ants, and decrease the productivity of this herbivore's mutualistic fungal cultivar, Leucocoprinus gongylophorus. This negative effect of endophytes on the ant's cultivar could be the result of direct fungal–fungal interaction o...
Article
Social transmission and host developmental stage are thought to profoundly affect the structure of bacterial communities associated with honey bees and bumble bees, but these ideas have not been explored in other bee species. The halictid bees Megalopta centralis and Megalopta genalis exhibit intra-population social polymorphism, which we exploit t...
Article
Full-text available
Ant social parasites evolve adaptive relationships with their hosts. Theoretically, coevolution predicts strong selection to maximize fitness of the parasite that minimizes costs to its host, which potentially leads to the evolution of benign interactions. We studied the demographic and behavioral traits of the ant social parasite Megalomyrmex symm...