Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 95–101 | Cite as

Mutual intra- and interspecific social parasitism between parapatric sister species of Vespula wasps

  • T. SagaEmail author
  • M. Kanai
  • M. Shimada
  • Y. Okada
Research Article


Cooperative breeding of animals is vulnerable to social parasitism, in which parasites usurp the labors of the hosts. In social hymenopterans, social parasitism has evolved numerous times independently, and the process by which it has arisen is thus a major question in evolutionary biology. It is generally thought that parasites originate from their hosts via sympatric speciation, and some actual examples have been reported. On the other hand, an alternative hypothesis that allopatric speciation first occurred, and then one species subsequently evolved as the parasite of its sister species has been theoretically supported, but no actual cases have yet been reported. Here, we report that our observations suggest facultative, temporary, and mutual social parasitism that occurs in both an intra- and interspecific manner in two sister species of yellow jackets, Vespula flaviceps and V. shidai, in Japan. Considering their parapatric distribution, social structure, and parasitic behaviors, social parasitism between these two species does not follow the conventional sympatric speciation hypothesis (intraspecific hypothesis), but possibly supports the social deception hypothesis (interspecific hypothesis). The mutual social parasitism between parapatric sister species offers a good opportunity to study the evolution of social parasitism.


Evolution Mutual interspecific parasitism Parapatric distribution Social parasitism Vespula 



This research was supported in part by Takeda Science Foundation, Fujiwara Natural History Foundation, Funding of the Nagano Society for The Promotion of Science, and the Dream Project by Come on UP, Ltd. We are grateful to Koji Sasakawa and Yuichiro Kobayashi for discussion. We thank Honami Kawabe, Moe Takahashi, Chiaki Gomi, and Shuto Suzuki for their help with sample collection. We thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments improved the manuscript. We would like to thank Editage ( for English language editing.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General Systems StudiesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.NaganoJapan

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