• How to Design Experiments in Animal Behaviour: 8. How Do Wasps Decide Who Would Be the Queen? Part 2

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    • Keywords


      Ropalidia marginata, paper wasp, potential queen, queen pheromone, dominance behaviour, cryptic successor.

    • Abstract


      Continuing to explore the fascinating world of the Indian paperwasp Ropalidia marginata, in this article, we will ask howwasps choose their queens in another context. In the previousarticle in this series, we saw how a simple experiment revealedthat wasps fight, i.e., indulge in dominance-subordinateinteractions, and the winner becomes the queen and theloser becomes the worker. This was in the context of newnest foundation. But contextmatters. When the same waspsonce again have to decide who will be their next queenif the first one dies or is experimentally removed, the samerules do not hold. The wasps in a mature colony continueto show dominance-subordinate interactions and can even bearranged in a dominance hierarchy, but the dominance ranksof the wasps do not predict who their next queen will be.How they choose their next queen in this context continuesto be an enduring mystery. In this article, I will describe foursimple experiments that have helped us come close to nailingthe culprit, although I must confess that we have not yetfound the smoking gun—the chase is on, and we are hot onthe trail—please join in!

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