The energetic costs of stereotyped behavior in the paper wasp, Polistes dominulus
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Polistes wasps engage in many behavioral interactions. Although there has been debate over the meaning of these interactions, these stereotypical behaviors can be used to determine a colony’s linear dominance hierarchy. Due to the implicit relationship between behavioral and reproductive dominance, behavioral interactions are commonly used to distinguish the reproductively dominant alpha foundress from the beta foundress. It has been suggested that in order to maintain reproductive control, the alpha foundress is forced to remain at a physiologically constrained activity limit. This, in turn, may allow aggressive interactions to be used as determinants influencing reproductive partitioning between cooperating individuals. Energetic costs can place important limitations on behavior, but the energetic cost of the interactions has not previously been measured. To address this, we measured the CO2 production of 19 non-nestmate pairs displaying interactive and noninteractive behavior. The rate of energy used during interaction behavior was positively associated with published rankings of aggression. However, our results indicate that interactions are not very energetically costly in Polistes, particularly when compared to the likely cost of foraging. These data suggest that maintaining reproductive dominance is not very energetically expensive for the dominant and that the dominant foundress expends energy at a lower rate than the subordinate foundress.
KeywordsPolistes dominulus Energetics Dominance hierarchies Reproductive skew
We thank R.D. Stevenson for the use of respirometry equipment. This project was partially funded by the Tufts Biology department. This research was conducted in compliance with the current laws of the United States of America.
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