This Wasp Is Protected By Thousands Of Soldier Clones, But That Is The Least Of its Abilities

This Wasp Is Protected By Thousands Of Soldier Clones, But That Is The Least Of its Abilities

A type of parasitoid wasp has long been known for its ability to lay eggs within the eggs belonging to certain moths. Once this occurs, the moths, as well as their own offspring, stand no chance of survival. When the egg hatches, three thousand wasp clone embryos are produced. However, recent research has discovered that there is more to this wasp’s reproductive cycle. In the past it was always believed that these wasps were only capable of a biological phenomenon referred to as polyembryony. This is when thousands of identical larvae clones result from multiple embryos located within one single wasp egg. However, researchers have now observed that multiple different types of larvae can result from the same genetic material. This reproductive phenomena is known as polyphenism.

In cases of polyphenism, the waps produces two different types of larvae, soldiers and reproducers. When reproducers emerge before the moth larvae last molting, the reproducers eat the moth larvae and then grow into adult wasps. However, when soldiers emerge from moth larvae they never molt; instead they live long enough to protect their reproductive siblings from other predators within the host larvae. When the host dies, then so do the soldiers, but by this point, the reproductives can fend for themselves. The number of soldiers produced always seems to vary, and male wasp eggs result in far less aggressive soldier larvae.

In an effort to find out what factors determine the number of soldier larvae produced by a wasp, researchers with the University of Georgia believe that they have found a reasonable explanation. Sometimes the amount of certain competing parasitoids within moth larvae is greater in number than other times. These competing parasitoids are referred to as Microplitis demolitor. When the amount of Microplitis demolitor within a moth larvae is higher, then more soldier wasp larvae are needed to defend their reproductive siblings from their attacks. There could be multiple factors, but the variant amount of parasitoids aiming to destroy wasp larvae seems to be an undeniable explanation for the variant amount of soldiers produced by wasps.

Do you believe that the amount of Microplitis demolitor within a moth larvae can sometimes outcompete and destroy all the wasp larvae?





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