I have a new paper out with Dr. Scott Egan, Dr. Andrew Forbes, and Sean Liu! The paper is Open Access in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Here is the abstract:
There are many examples of apparent manipulation of host phenotype by parasites, yet few examples of hypermanipulation—where a phenotype-manipulating parasite is itself manipulated by a parasite. Moreover, few studies confirm manipulation is occurring by quantifying whether the host’s changed phenotype increases parasite fitness. Here we describe a novel case of hypermanipulation, in which the crypt gall wasp Bassettia pallida (a phenotypic manipulator of its tree host) is manipulated by the parasitoid crypt-keeper wasp Euderus set, and show that the host’s changed behaviour increases parasitoid fitness. Bassettia pallida parasitizes sand live oaks and induces the formation of a ‘crypt’ within developing stems. When parasitized by E. set, B. pallida adults excavate an emergence hole in the crypt wall, plug the hole with their head and die. We show experimentally that this phenomenon benefits E. set, as E. set that need to excavate an emergence hole themselves are about three times more likely to die trapped in the crypt. In addition, we discuss museum and field data to explore the distribution of the crypt-keeping phenomena.
Rice University’s videographer Brandon Martin made an awesome video about our study system:
The absolutely amazing french cartoonist Boulet graciously did artwork illustrating our study system. The study system is a bit complicated, since it’s wasps infecting wasps and it all gets a little hard to follow. Boulet’s artwork does a fantastic job of laying the system out clearly:
We were blown away by all of the press coverage of the article. Below are some highlights:
New Scientist (we made the front page!)