Advertised quality, caste and food availability influence the survival cost of juvenile hormone in paper wasps

Elizabeth A. Tibbetts, Maral Banan


Life-history trade-offs are often hormonally mediated. Here, we provide a comparative perspective on the endocrine basis of life-history trade-offs by examining the invertebrate hormone juvenile hormone (JH). JH is often associated with benefits, including increased dominance and reproductive success. We tested whether JH reduced survival of Polistes dominulus wasps and whether this survival cost was influenced by factors such as advertised quality, food availability, caste and body size. Overall, JH reduced individual survival. Among fed and unfed queens, JH reduced survival in a dose-dependent manner. Among workers, JH had a stronger effect on survival of fed workers than unfed workers. Unfed workers died quickly and body size was the best predictor of survival. Surprisingly, queens and workers treated with JH survived longer when they had signals advertising high quality than when they had signals advertising low quality. The relationship between advertised quality and ability to withstand high levels of JH suggests that there are differential physiological costs associated with ornament elaboration that could play a role in maintaining signal accuracy over evolutionary time. Overall, the convergence of endocrine-mediated costs across diverse systems suggests that endocrine-mediated trade-offs may be an adaptive way to optimize resource allocation rather than a non-adaptive constraint specific to a particular hormone.

  • Received May 12, 2010.
  • Accepted May 19, 2010.
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