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Thermoregulation in the primitively eusocial paper wasp, Polistes dominulus


Regulation of wing muscle temperature is important for sustaining flight in many insects, and has been well studied in honeybees. It has been much less well studied in wasps and has never been demonstrated in Polistes paper wasps. We measured thorax, head, and abdomen temperatures of inactive Polistes dominulus workers as they warmed after transfer from 8 to ~25°C ambient temperature, after removal from hibernacula, and after periods of flight in a variable temperature room. Thorax temperature (T th) of non-flying live wasps increased more rapidly than that of dead wasps, and T th of some live wasps reached more than 2°C above ambient temperature (T a), indicating endothermy. Wasps removed from hibernacula had body region temperatures significantly above ambient. The T th of flying wasps was 2.5°C above ambient at T a = 21°C, and at or even below ambient at T a = 40°C. At 40°C head and abdomen temperatures were both more than 2°C below T a, indicating evaporative cooling. We conclude that P. dominulus individuals demonstrate clear, albeit limited, thermoregulatory capacity.

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We thank Jon Harrison for his advice, Robert Stevenson for reviewing a draft of this manuscript and the use of his equipment, and Barry Trimmer for the use of his resources. We would also like to thank Sara Lewis for her assistance with statistics and Ansel Payne for his editing help. Funding was provided by the Tufts University Biology Department, REU site 0649190, the PRAXIS Summer Internship of Smith College, and an Essel Student Fellowship for summer research in neurobiology from Williams College.

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Correspondence to S. A. Weiner.

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Weiner, S.A., Upton, C.T., Noble, K. et al. Thermoregulation in the primitively eusocial paper wasp, Polistes dominulus . Insect. Soc. 57, 157–162 (2010).

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  • Hymenoptera
  • Flight
  • Temperature
  • Thermoregulation
  • Hibernation