Brain structure differences between solitary and social wasp species are independent of body size allometry
Evolutionary transitions in social behavior are often associated with changes in species’ brain architecture. A recent comparative analysis showed that the structure of brains of wasps in the family Vespidae differed between solitary and social species: the mushroom bodies, a major integrative brain region, were larger relative to brain size in the solitary species. However, the earlier study did not account for body size effects, and species’ relative mushroom body size increases with body size in social Vespidae. Here we extend the previous analysis by measuring the effects of body size variation on brain structure differences between social and solitary vespid wasps. We asked whether total brain volume was greater relative to body size in the solitary species, and whether relative mushroom body size was greater in solitary species, after accounting for body size effects. Both total brain volume and relative mushroom body volume were significantly greater in the solitary species after accounting for body size differences. Therefore, body size allometry did not explain the solitary versus social species differences in brain structure. The evolutionary transition from solitary to social behavior in Vespidae was accompanied by decreases in total brain size and in relative mushroom body size.
KeywordsEusociality Mushroom bodies Neuroecology Paper wasps Social brain hypothesis
Research was funded by NSF Grant 1209072, a Wistar Morris grant, and the College of Arts and Sciences of Drexel University (to S. O’D.).
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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