Thursday, 29 January 2015

Why Wasps Massacre Each Other ... Over Figs

by James Cook, University of Reading | January 27, 2015 12:05pm ET

This article was originally published on The Conversation. The publication contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is a common refrain. But usually it is not followed by the words “because your neighbours may kill you”. However, this is precisely the scenario faced by some female Brazilian fig wasps – and a recent report of their “mortal combat” provides an intriguing, if chilling, example of how natural selection shapes animal behaviour.

As Charles Darwin realised, individuals compete for limited resources such as food, territory or mates – and natural selection favours those adopting the most effective competitive strategies. Often a specific behaviour involves both costs and benefits – so, for example, foraging efficiently for food may expose an animal to predators.

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