A re-assessment of within-host mating behavior in the Nasonia species complex

Trienens, Monika; Giesbers, Maartje C.W.G.; Pannebakker, Bart A.; Zande, Louis van de; Beukeboom, Leo W.


Insects have a wide variety of mating systems. For parasitic wasps, mating sites are often confined to where their hosts occur and this mutual interaction therefore greatly affects the evolution of alternative mating strategies. Parasitoids of the genus Nasonia (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) – comprising the species Nasonia vitripennis (Walker), Nasonia longicornis Darling, Nasonia giraulti Darling, and Nasonia oneida Raychouhury & Desjardins – parasitize blowfly pupae and typically mate immediately after emergence of the females from the host puparium. However, in one Nasonia species, N. giraulti, mating predominantly occurs within the host. Here, we re-assess within-host mating (WHM) rates within the Nasonia genus, using laboratory lines and field-collected hosts, including N. oneida for which no data were available yet. We confirm that WHM rates are low in N. vitripennis and N. longicornis, but high in N. giraulti. WHM is rare in N. oneida, despite its sympatry and close phylogenetic relationship with N. giraulti. Multiparasitization experiments with N. vitripennis and N. giraulti resulted in lower WHM proportions of N. giraulti. To evaluate whether this was due to an exit hole in the host pupa created by N. vitripennis males – where an exit hole may result in emergence of N. giraulti females and possibly males prior to mating – we artificially created exit holes in the host parasitized by N. giraulti only. This also yielded a lower WHM proportion. Progeny analysis of interspecific crosses of N. longicornis and N. oneida with N. giraulti, generating hybrid female but non-hybrid male offspring, revealed that WHM is largely determined by the maternal species and, hence, by the species to which the male offspring belong. We conclude that WHM is predominantly a male-mediated trait in N. giraulti, resulting from males refraining from making exit holes and mating with females inside the host. We discuss how these findings can be used to evaluate whether WHM contributes to preventing species hybridization.