DNA methylation and sex allocation in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia Vitripennis

Nicola Cook, Bart A. Pannebakker, Eran Tauber, David M. Shuker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of epigenetics in the control and evolution of behavior is being increasingly recognized. Here we test whether DNA methylation influences patterns of adaptive sex allocation in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Female N. vitripennis allocate offspring sex broadly in line with local mate competition (LMC) theory. However, recent theory has highlighted how genomic conflict may influence sex allocation under LMC, conflict that requires parentof- origin information to be retained by alleles through some form of epigenetic signal. We manipulated whole-genome DNA methylation in N. vitripennis females using the hypomethylating agent 5- aza-20-deoxycytidine. Across two replicated experiments, we show that disruption of DNA methylation does not ablate the facultative sex allocation response of females, as sex ratios still vary with cofoundress number as in the classical theory. However, sex ratios are generally shifted upward when DNA methylation is disrupted. Our data are consistent with predictions from genomic conflict over sex allocation theory and suggest that sex ratios may be closer to the optimum for maternally inherited alleles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-518
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.


  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Genomic conflict
  • Haplodiploidy
  • Local mate competition
  • Sex ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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