Closely related species in nature usually exhibit very similar phylogenetically conserved traits, such as reproduction, behavior and development. Here, we compared fecundity schedules, lifetime reproductive success and offspring sex ratios in three congeneric facultative hyperparasitoid wasps that exhibit several overlapping traits and which co-occur in the same small-scale habitats. Gelis agilis, G. proximus and G. hortensis are abundant in meadows and forest edge habitats in the Netherlands. Gelis agilis is asexual (all female), whereas the other two species reproduce sexually. Here they developed on cocoons of the primary parasitoid Cotesia glomerata. When provided with unlimited hosts, lifetime reproductive success was three times higher in G. proximus than in G. agilis with G. hortensis producing intermediate numbers of offspring. All three species depleted their teneral reserves during their lives. Females of G. proximus and G. hortensis lived significantly longer than females of G. agilis. Offspring sex ratios in young G. proximus mothers were female-biased and marginally male-biased in G. hortensis. As mothers aged, however, the ratio of male:female progeny produced rapidly increased until no daughters emerged later in life. Our results reveal significant differences in reproductive traits among the three species despite them co-occurring in the same microhabitats, being very closely related and morphologically similar. The increase in the production of male progeny by Gelis mothers over time suggests a depletion in sperm number or viability with age. This is especially interesting, given that Gelis species are among the least fecund parasitoids thus far studied. It is likely that in the field most Gelis mothers are probably only able to parasitize a few hosts and to maintain the production of female offspring.
Harvey, J. A., de Haan, L., Verdeny-Vilalta, O., Visser, B., & Gols, R. (2019). Reproduction and Offspring Sex Ratios Differ Markedly among Closely Related Hyperparasitoids Living in the Same Microhabitats. Journal of Insect Behavior, 32(3), 243-251. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10905-019-09730-z