Synchronized hatching as a possible strategy to avoid sibling cannibalism in stink bugs


In some animals, timing of egg hatching is adjusted in response to cues from clutch mates to synchronize hatching within a clutch and this typically facilitates mass migration of hatchlings from their natal clutch. A recent study in eight species of Pentatomidae revealed that four species show synchronized hatching due to responses to earlier-hatched siblings, by comparing temporal hatching patterns between intact clutches and eggs individually detached from clutches. However, hatchlings of Pentatomidae do not migrate from their natal clutch immediately. In the present study, using the same eight species, we explored the evolutionary reason for the synchronized hatching in Pentatomidae. In all of the species examined except one non-synchronized species, Eurydema rugosum, hatchlings showed egg feeding behavior with greatly different time of onset. The highly synchronized species, Halyomorpha halys and Nezara viridula, had the time of onset of egg feeding earlier than in the other species. In these two species, based on the hatching patterns of eggs individually detached from their clutches, we concluded that eggs can be cannibalized by their earlier-hatched siblings unless they hatch in response to siblings. On the other hand, this was not the case in the moderately synchronized species, Piezodorus hybneri and Plautia stali. In the other three non-synchronized species, Aelia fieberi, Dolycoris baccarum, and Palomena angulosa, eggs seemed not to incur a risk of cannibalism. In intact H. halys clutches, almost no eggs were cannibalized by siblings. In conclusion, synchronized hatching serves as a possible strategy to avoid sibling cannibalism in Pentatomidae, although it can also have some other functions.

Significance statement

Eggs should often be able to control when to hatch in response to environmental factors affecting survival of eggs or hatchlings. Species of various taxa show responses to siblings in the same clutch to achieve synchronized hatching among the siblings. It is typically recognized that such synchronized hatching is required so that hatchlings leave their natal clutch together, which serves, for example, to reduce the risk of being preyed on by predators. Here, we present evidence supporting that synchronized hatching observed in some stink bugs helps eggs to avoid being cannibalized by their earlier-hatched siblings. We also show that other stink bugs with no synchronized hatching have no or little risk of sibling egg cannibalism. This study deepens our knowledge that the synchronized hatching can function in various social contexts with siblings.

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Data availability

The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We thank Kazuhiko Kuge and Masaho Haikata for assistance in collecting insects, Elizabeth Nakajima for linguistic corrections, and Yoshito Suzuki and Akira Mori for advice.

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Correspondence to Hideharu Numata.

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Endo, J., Numata, H. Synchronized hatching as a possible strategy to avoid sibling cannibalism in stink bugs. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 74, 16 (2020) doi:10.1007/s00265-020-2799-0

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  • Avoidance of cannibalism
  • Halyomorpha halys
  • Nezara viridula
  • Pentatomidae
  • Sibling cannibalism
  • Stink bug
  • Synchronized hatching