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Nonsiblicidal behavior and the evolution of clutch size in bethylid wasps

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Publication details

JournalThe American Naturalist
DatePublished - 1998
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)409-424
Original languageEnglish


Parent-offspring conflict over clutch size may lead to siblicidal behavior between juveniles. In parasitoid wasps, selection for siblicide in small broods is predicted to produce a dearth of gregarious broods with few eggs. Here we document the clutch size distribution in the Bethylidae, a large family of aculeate parasitoids. Small gregarious clutches are the most common. Further data suggest that the most common gregarious clutches in the parasitoid Hymenoptera as a whole contain only a few eggs. Across bethylid species, both clutch size and wasp size increase with host size. Within genera clutch size is more closely related to host size, bur between genera or larger clades wasp size is more closely related to host size. The volume of the emerging wasp brood does not depend on whether a species lays single-or multiple-egg clutches once host size is taken into account. These data suggest that clutch size in bethylid wasps is best described by traditional optimality models and that siblicide plays little role in this and possibly other families. We propose several ecological reasons for the rarity of siblicide in bethylids: ectoparasitism, idiobiosis, and a suite of characteristics associated with high within-brood relatedness.

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