(The Gist of Science Reporter) How Hitchhiking Worms Choose their Vehicles
(GIST OF SCIENCE REPORTER) How Hitchhiking Worms Choose their Vehicles
How Hitchhiking Worms Choose their Vehicles
A new study from the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) shows that the worms generally tend to choose wasps that have less crowded guts, and are already carrying other worms of their own species.
Travelling with members of their own species can boost their chances of finding a mate when they reach their destination.
Wasps carrying fewer worms also have a greater chance of reaching the destination safely.
The wasp helps in pollination and the tree provides food. The tree also hosts three different types of worms.
These worms rely entirely on the wasps, which ferry young worms from one fig tree to another, where the worms then mature, mate and give birth.
In an earlier study, the researchers used controlled experiments to show that if there are too many worms boarding a wasp, they turn into parasites and affect not just the wasp but also the tree they reach.
The new study shows that to avoid overcrowding, the worms do tend to select wasps with fewer passengers.
They check for this using chemical cues – they sniff out volatile compounds that the wasps emit by standing on their tails and waving their heads around.
When the researchers offered the worms a choice between compounds emitted by a wasp carrying either fewer or more passengers, the worms selected the former.
Although the worms could distinguish between wasps carrying different numbers of their own species, surprisingly, they could not recognise members of a different species and treated those wasps carrying them as empty vehicles.