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The shift from ectoparasitism to endoparasitism has greatly diversified developmental strategies among parasitoid wasps as novel traits evolved in response to offspring developing inside the host (Pennacchio and Strand, 2006). In order to evade the host’s immunity reaction of encapsulation, some species release “hidden-self” recognition molecules so that the parasitoid egg or larva avoids recognition and attack from host hemocytes (Schmidt and Strand, 2001). Other species have evolved mechanisms of inhibiting or destroying the host’s cellular immunity system (Strand and Pech, 1995). Endoparasitoid wasps regulate the host’s physiology either by targeting hormones or the hemolymph protein content of the parasitized host (Bae and Kim, 2004). These parasitoids produce and release active factors in the host hemocoel that may be synthesized by the female parasitoid in venom glands and injected along with the parasitoid egg during oviposition, or they may be released by the offspring during the course of development (Mabiala-Moundoungou et al., 2010). Many species of the ichneumonid and braconid families use symbiotic polydnaviruses (PDVs) to infect the host tissues and control the host’s physiology with the acquired virus (Schmidt et al., 2001).

Conclusion

Hymenopteran insects show an immense range of biological diversity and employ various strategies to escape or overcome their host’s immunity defenses and regulate their host’s physiology to foster the success of their own development. The presence of parasitoid wasp diversity can be better understood by tracing the evolution of the parasitoid lifestyle and discussing the ecological constraints on parasitoid development. In addition, analyzing of the different mechanisms of wasp parasitism sheds light on the evolution of biological diversity in this group of insects. Although a great amount of research has been done on wasp venom and related symbiotic polydnaviruses used to infect host tissues, these re remains plenty of room for research on these secretions. Parasitoid wasps produce a wide range of venoms that could serve as models for developing synthetic chemical insecticides and effectively reduce the spread of human diseases via insect vectors. Parasitoid wasps are a diverse and fascinating group of insects that continue to have a significant global impact.

Discussion questions:

  1. What factors select for the evolution of a parasitoid lifestyle?
  2. Why would an ectoparasitoid lifestyle evolve before an endoparasitoid lifestyle?
  3. What are the advantages of having a parasitoid lifestyle over a predatory lifestyle?
  4. What are the dangers of having a parasitoid lifestyle?
  5. What defense mechanisms can hosts utilize to escape parasitism?

Glossary

  • Angiosperms - A plant that produces flowers.
  • Apocrita - A suborder of insects in the order Hymenoptera that includes wasps, bees and ants.
  • Ectoparasitoid - A parasitoid that develops on the outside of the host’s body.
  • Endoparasitoid - A parasitoid that develops inside the host’s body.
  • Hemocytes - A cell that plays a role in the immune system of invertebrates; phagocytes found within the hemolymph of invertebrates.
  • Hemolymph - The liquid that fills the interior of the body and surrounds all cells in arthropods; analogous to the fluids and cells that comprise blood in higher animals.
  • Holometabolous - A term applied to insect groups that exhibit complete metamorphism in which the insect undergoes a series of physical changes during development; includes four life stages – an embryo, a larva, a pupa, and an adult.
  • Hymenoptera - one of the largest orders of insects; comprised of sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants
  • Idiobiont - A parasitoid whose host ceases to develop after parasitism.
  • Koinobionts - A parasitoid whose host continues to develop as the parasitoid’s offspring matures.
  • Larval stage - A distinct juvenile stage in an insect’s life that occurs before it undergoes metamorphosis into an adult.
  • Morphology - Descriptive structures used to identify an insect.
  • Parasitism - A type of relationship between different organisms wherein on organism benefits at the expense of the host.
  • Parasitoid - An organism that lives internally or externally on its host and ultimately kills its host.
  • Phylogeny - A tool that shows the evolutionary relatedness among various organisms.
  • Polydnavirus - A type of insect virus that is secreted with venom at the time of oviposition and aids in immune suppression of the host.
  • Wasp - Any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor ant.

References

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    *A new and interesting paper on Virus-Like Particles in parasitoid wasps

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    *A very interesting paper that provides new and interesting information about parasitoid venom

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About the author

Jennifer Tina Pan is a graduating senior at Rice University currently living in Oak Park, California. Originally born in Houston, TX, Jennifer’s family moved to California when she was four years old. A rambunctious and energetic child, Jennifer began playing various sports at the age of five and eventually focused on tennis at the age of ten. Among her friends, Jennifer was called “Panda Express” for being the token Asian girl on the team. Their team made it to the state championships two years in a row, and Jennifer went on to play Varsity tennis her freshman year at Rice University.

Jennifer enjoys sampling foreign cuisine and baking in her spare time. An avid fan of Food Network, she recently made chocolate soufflé for twelve friends and is embarking on a quest to make crème brûlée so that her set of ceramic soufflé dishes are put to good use. In addition to sweets, Jennifer has a weakness for sushi and has been to nine different sushi restaurants while living in Houston for the past four years. Her younger sister, Rachel, is also an active sushi connoisseur and the sisters are known to frequent their favorite hometown sushi restaurant, Sushi Gen, multiple times each week. Although she also grew up playing tennis, Rachel discovered a passion for pole vaulting in her freshman year of high school and plans to pole vault for UCI after graduating from Oak Park High School. An important year of transition for both, Jennifer and Rachel plan to finally take a summer vacation together after graduating from their respective places of learning.

Jennifer’s multiple sports-related injuries led her to become interested in Sports Medicine in her sophomore year of college. In addition to majoring in Kinesiology, Jennifer continued to pursue her interest in ecology by taking various biology classes and labs. To this day, Jennifer cites Plant Diversity with Tom Miller as her favorite class at Rice University. She is thankful for the wealth of information she gained from her professors while at Rice, and is excited for the next step in her career.

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Source:  OpenStax, Mockingbird tales: readings in animal behavior. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11211/1.5
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