Wasp sex ratios when females on a patch are related
Shuker DM., Reece SE., Taylor JAL., West SA.
Optimality theory of sex allocation in structured populations has proved remarkably successful in explaining patterns of facultative sex ratio behaviour in numerous species. Extensions to the basic theory have included more specific aspects of species biology, including the relatedness of interacting individuals. We considered the sex ratio decisions made by female Nasonia vitripennis wasps when they were ovipositing on a patch with either relatives or nonrelatives. Theory predicts that females should produce more female-biased sex ratios when ovipositing with relatives, for example sisters, than with unrelated females. This is because related females should limit the level of local mate competition between their sons for female partners. Contrary to theory, two experiments showed that female sex ratio behaviour was unaffected by the relatedness of their oviposition partner, and was also unrelated to an environmental cue that could signal relatedness, i.e. whether females responded differently to sisters emerging from the same or a different host. Instead, in both experiments, we found that only wasp strain significantly influenced sex ratio. A meta-analysis of studies conducted on a range of species on the effects of the relatedness of oviposition partners on sex ratio failed to show the predicted pattern. We discuss why females appear to behave in a maladaptive way when allocating sex under these conditions, and suggest that weak selection and/or conflict between females over optimal sex ratios may influence the evolution of kin discrimination. © 2004 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.