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Interview with the authors: High indirect fitness benefits for helpers across the nesting cycle in the tropical paper wasp Polistes canadensis

Polistes canadensis nest

Polistes canadensis nest RJ Southon

Press release issued: 21 August 2019

Understanding how complex social systems evolve is a long-standing and challenging goal of evolutionary biology.

Many animal taxa are eusocial, where individuals forego reproduction in order to help raise young produced by another member their group. This behavior only makes sense if there are potential benefits – either direct or indirect – to the helpers. The genus of paper wasps Polistes is commonly used as a model system for studying sociality, however most of the research on this group has been conducted in temperate ecosystems, whereas relatively little is known about their behavior in tropical ecosystems where the genus likely originated. Does our understanding of how direct and indirect benefits contribute to the evolution of complex social systems depend on the environment where we conduct the research? Below, we go behind the scenes with Emily Bell and Robin Southon on their latest paper in Molecular Ecology to find out.

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