Limited kin discrimination abilities mediate tolerance toward relatives in polyembryonic parasitoid wasps

Michal Segoli, Tamar Keasar, Ally R. Harari, Amos Bouskila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We modeled the possible effect of limited kin discrimination on larval aggression in polyembryonic wasps. In these organisms, each egg divides clonally to produce several genetically identical embryos inside an arthropod host. If more than one egg is laid inside a host (superparasitism), several clones compete for the host resources. In some species, a proportion of embryos develop into sterile soldier larvae that attack competitors inside the host. Soldiers were shown to attack according to relatedness, with higher levels of aggression toward less related individuals. Yet, the tolerance of soldiers toward nonclonal relatives is puzzling, given the intense competition for host resources, which is not offset by inclusive fitness. Using a decision tree model, we looked for conditions that justify soldier tolerance. We assumed 2 possible strategies for a soldier: A tolerant soldier does not attack a competing clone and an aggressive soldier attacks any clone that it identifies as a competitor. We calculated the expected payoffs of each strategy under different conditions of relatedness and probabilities for discrimination errors. The model predicts that when discrimination ability is perfect, a soldier should attack any competitor, regardless of relatedness. However, when discrimination ability is restricted, soldiers should switch from aggression to tolerance with increasing relatedness to competitors. The model demonstrates that limited discrimination abilities may shift the threshold of relatedness required to induce tolerance. This may apply to other systems of kin recognition that are prone to discrimination errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1262-1267
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009


  • Copidosoma koehleri
  • Decision tree model
  • Discrimination ability
  • Kin recognition
  • Polyembryonic parasitoid wasps
  • Soldier larva

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Limited kin discrimination abilities mediate tolerance toward relatives in polyembryonic parasitoid wasps'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this