Paper Wasp Team

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 11.45.59

Prof Jeremy Field

Professor of Evolutionary Biology


 

Our work is carried out in collaboration with Professor Jeremy Field from the University of Sussex. Jeremy is a world leading authority on the social evolution of wasps and bees. He was Michael Cant’s supervisor for his first post-doctoral position, and together they founded a study of P. dominula at Conil.

For further information about Professor Jeremy Field’s research, please click here.

Jeremy Field is based at University of Sussex
Using behavioural observations and advanced micro-CT scanning techniques to visualise brain anatomy, this research aims to test this hypothesis in novel ways.

Feargus Cooney

PhD Student

fc251@exeter.ac.uk


Feargus Cooney is a PhD student studying the effects of social life on brain development in Polistes dominula. In comparative studies of mammals and birds there is evidence that the specific demands of living in social groups may lead to increases in brain mass and cognitive ability. Unlike ‘higher’ eusocial insects, P. dominula exhibit individual recognition and respond to others in their social group according to their position in a strict dominance hierarchy. Compared with highly derived insect societies, which do not display this individual recognition, we might expect that a more complex social life leads to a more complex brain, analogous to what we see in some vertebrates. Using behavioural observations and advanced micro-CT scanning techniques to visualise brain anatomy, this research aims to test this hypothesis in novel ways.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
alex

Alex Brown

MRes Student

ab692@exeter.ac.uk


I am an MRes student studying the dynamics of social hierarchies in Polistes dominula. Previous work on this species has shown that, following the removal of a dominant founder, there is a rapid spike in aggression of the rank 2 as she seeks to cement her place as the replacement dominant, followed by a gradual decay in her rate of aggression over the next few days. The former rank 2, now the new rank 1, will often fiercely defend her position should the old rank 1 return, often resulting in combat between the two.  My research tests the hypothesis that foraging efficiency of the entire nest decreases during these phases of high aggression, which may reduce the benefits to the rank 2 or other individuals of attempting to challenge the status quo. My project involves video analysis to measure rates of aggression and foraging success before and after the removal of the rank 1 individual, testing the consequences of hierarchy disturbance on foraging behaviour in a cooperative species.

My research tests the hypothesis that foraging efficiency of whole groups decrease during phases of high aggression from the dominant