Title page for ETD etd-07292008-110310

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Newman, Duncan Victor Kimberlin
Email dnewman@tuks.co.za
URN etd-07292008-110310
Document Title A study on the sex allocation behaviour of the pollinating fig wasp, Platyscapa awekei
Degree MSc
Department Genetics
Advisor Name Title
Prof J M Greeff Supervisor
  • sex allocation behaviour
  • Platyscapa awekei
  • fig wasp
Date 2008-04-21
Availability unrestricted
The behaviour of sex allocation has been extensively studied in hymenopterans (ants, bees and wasps) as an adaptive trait with respect to intra-specific competition within the framework of kin selection theory. Mating in these organisms often takes place in patchy populations established by the offspring of a few foundresses. Typically, there is a bias in favour of female dispersal from these patches. Theory predicts that foundresses that oviposit alone will do best to produce just enough sons to mate all of their daughters so as to maximize the number of dispersing daughters, under conditions of what is referred to as Local Mate Competition (LMC) between brothers to mate their sisters. If foundresses co-found a patch with other foundresses, they are expected to invest more resources in sons insofar as opportunity to sire offspring with the daughters of the other foundresses presents itself.

Among organisms with such a life histories are fig wasps, the insects that pollinate and lay their eggs in the flowers that grow inside young figs. There is thought to be strong selective pressure for foundresses to use information about clutch size differences in species where clutch sizes are small and low foundress numbers are frequently encountered. However, less rigorous modes of sex allocation are thought to suffice in species encountering intermediate foundress numbers. Theory thus predicts a positive relationship between the degree of structure within mating populations and the information utilized by foundresses with respect to intra-specific competition for resources and mating opportunities. This is being extensively tested across the diverse species range of fig wasps and their hosts with the larger objective in mind of contributing to a better understanding of the role of natural selection in accounting for variation observed of intra-specific behaviour.

This dissertation reports on a study of the sex allocation behaviour of the pollinating fig wasp Platyscapa awekei, a species characterized by low foundress numbers and clutch size differences brought about by foundress competition over oviposition sites. Offspring collected from experimentally controlled twofoundress broods were fingerprinted using microsatellite genetic markers to assign maternity and work out clutch size differences. These data are used to test what information foundresses use when allocating sex. It is reported that foundresses appear to use information of clutch size differences in two foundress broods. This observation provides evidence of advanced information utilization in fig wasps. More generally, the findings add support to the hypothesis that natural selection can bring about subtle adaptive behaviour at the individual level, but simultaneously highlights the importance of accounting for the selective regime of the organism being studied when attempting to understand the role of natural selection in the evolution of fine scale adaptive traits.

2007 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Newman, DVK 2007, A study on the sex allocation behaviour of the pollinating fig wasp, Platyscapa awekei, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07292008-110310/ >


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