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Harden up: metal acquisition in the weaponized ovipositors of aculeate hymenoptera


The use of metal ions to harden the tips and edges of ovipositors is known to occur in many hymenopteran species. However, species using the ovipositor for delivery of venom, which occurs in the aculeate hymenoptera (stinging wasps, ants, and bees) remains uninvestigated. In this study, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray analysis was used to investigate the morphology and metal compositional differences among aculeate aculei. We show that aculeate aculei have a wide diversity of morphological adaptations relating to their lifestyle. We also demonstrate that metals are present in the aculei of all families of aculeate studied. The presence of metals is non-uniform and concentrated in the distal region of the stinger, especially along the longitudinal edges. This study is the first comparative investigation to document metal accumulation in aculeate aculei.

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  • 16 June 2018

    The author would like to correct the errors in the publication of the original article. The corrected details are given below for your reading.


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We thank UQ Centre for Microscopy for training in SEM techniques and MCI at the Smithsonian for use of microscopy facilities. KB received support from the Peter Buck predoctoral fellowship program (NMNH) and a UQ PhD scholarship. SGB received research support from U.S. National Science Foundation Grant DEB-1555905.

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Correspondence to Seán G. Brady or Bryan G. Fry.

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Baumann, K., Vicenzi, E.P., Lam, T. et al. Harden up: metal acquisition in the weaponized ovipositors of aculeate hymenoptera. Zoomorphology 137, 389–406 (2018).

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  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy
  • EDS
  • Aculeata
  • Aculeus
  • Cuticle
  • Metal accumulation