Various organisms are known to build nests with defensive structures to protect their offspring from predation, but our understanding of plasticity in the nest structure remains poor. In this study, we investigated whether a paper wasp, Polistes chinensis antennalis, adjusted the construction of nest defensive structure according to the value of their offspring, and we also analysed the effect of adjusting the construction of the structure on predator's decision to attack. P. chinensis antennalis foundresses start a colony and maintain her nest alone until the emergence of workers. During this stage, foundresses often construct a defensive structure on cocoon caps of pupae using nest materials (pulp), which prevents predation of pupae by conspecifics from other nests. The value of pupae to the foundress varies among those in a nest, where the value is higher in pupae that spun the cocoon (and initiated pupation) earlier than other pupae in the nest. From field observations, we found that foundresses constructed a larger pulp structure on the cocoons of pupae that cocooned earlier in the order of cocoon spinning, even after considering confounding factors. We also found that the probability of a pupa being attacked by conspecific intruders decreased with the size of pulp structure on the cocoon. This indicates that intruders avoid attacking cocoons with larger pulp structures. Our study indicates that foundresses adjust the construction of nest defensive structures according to their offspring value, and this allows them to protect the high-value offspring efficiently and effectively.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology