Geographic variation of melanisation patterns in a hornet species: genetic differences, climatic pressures or aposematic constraints?

Citation metadata

From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 9, Issue 4)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 10,268 words
Lexile Measure: 1420L

Document controls

Main content

Abstract :

Coloration of stinging insects is often based on contrasted patterns of light and black pigmentations as a warning signal to predators. However, in many social wasp species, geographic variation drastically modifies this signal through melanic polymorphism potentially driven by different selective pressures. To date, surprisingly little is known about the geographic variation of coloration of social wasps in relation to aposematism and melanism and to genetic and developmental constraints. The main objectives of this study are to improve the description of the colour variation within a social wasp species and to determine which factors are driving this variation. Therefore, we explored the evolutionary history of a polymorphic hornet, Vespa velutina Lepeletier, 1836, using mitochondrial and microsatellite markers, and we analysed its melanic variation using a colour space based on a description of body parts coloration. We found two main lineages within the species and confirmed the previous synonymy of V. auraria Smith, 1852, under V. velutina, differing only by the coloration. We also found that the melanic variation of most body parts was positively correlated, with some segments forming potential colour modules. Finally, we showed that the variation of coloration between populations was not related to their molecular, geographic or climatic differences. Our observations suggest that the coloration patterns of hornets and their geographic variations are determined by genes with an influence of developmental constraints. Our results also highlight that Vespa velutina populations have experienced several convergent evolutions of the coloration, more likely influenced by constraints on aposematism and Mullerian mimicry than by abiotic pressures on melanism.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A375583384