Maternal care provides antifungal protection to eggs in the European earwig

Boos, Stefan and Meunier, Joël and Pichon, Samuel and Kölliker, Mathias. (2014) Maternal care provides antifungal protection to eggs in the European earwig. Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 25, H. 4. pp. 754-761.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A6289052

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Many insects raise their offspring on organic substrates or in the soil where microorganisms are abundant. Microbes may pose a serious threat to offspring development and survival by either decomposing food resources or directly infecting the offspring. Selection to cope with these effects may favor social defenses, for example, through forms of parental care that can limit or eliminate these threats to offspring fitness. In this study, we experimentally tested if maternal egg attendance in the European earwig Forficula auricularia has a function as a social defense against mold infection of eggs by manipulating exposure of eggs to mold spores and the presence of the mother in a fully factorial design. Furthermore, we investigated the potential roles of egg grooming behavior and maternal transfer of chemicals as underlying mechanisms. As predicted, the beneficial effect of egg attendance on hatching success was significantly enhanced when eggs were exposed to the mold. Females significantly increased their egg grooming duration in response to mold exposure of her eggs, and the quantity of chemicals (identified as hydrocarbons) was maintained among attended eggs but decreased substantially among unattended eggs. Maternal transfer of chemicals was confirmed in extractions of glass beads that were mingled into attended or unattended clutches. This study shows that maternal egg attendance in the European earwig has a social defense function protecting offspring against mold infection. The maternal egg grooming behavior seems to be key for this effect, probably through both the mechanical removal of spores and the continued application of chemical substances on the egg surface.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Ehemalige Einheiten Umweltwissenschaften > Verhaltensevolution (Kölliker)
UniBasel Contributors:Kölliker, Mathias
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:10 Oct 2014 09:19
Deposited On:10 Oct 2014 09:19

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