• Mechanism and consequences for avoidance of superparasitism in the solitary parasitoid Cotesia vestalis

      Chen, Wen-Bin; Vasseur, Liette; Zhang, Shuai-Qi; Zhang, Han-Fang; Mao, Jun; Liu, Tian-Sheng; Zhou, Xian-Yong; Wang, Xin; Zhang, Jing; You, Min-Sheng; et al. (Nature Research, 2020)
      A parasitoid's decision to reject or accept a potential host is fundamental to its fitness. Superparasitism, in which more than one egg of a given parasitoid species can deposit in a single host, is usually considered sub-optimal in systems where the host is able to support the development of only a single parasitoid. It follows that selection pressure may drive the capacity for parasitoids to recognize parasitized hosts, especially if there is a fitness cost of superparasitism. Here, we used microsatellite studies of two distinct populations of Cotesia vestalis to demonstrate that an egg laid into a diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) larva that was parasitized by a conspecific parasitoid 10 min, 2 or 6 h previously was as likely to develop and emerge successfully as was the first-laid egg. Consistent with this, a naive parasitoid encountering its first host was equally likely to accept a healthy larva as one parasitized 10 min prior, though handling time of parasitized hosts was extended. For second and third host encounters, parasitized hosts were less readily accepted than healthy larvae. If 12 h elapsed between parasitism events, the second-laid egg was much less likely to develop. Discrimination between parasitized and healthy hosts was evident when females were allowed physical contact with hosts, and healthy hosts were rendered less acceptable by manual injection of parasitoid venom into their hemolymph. Collectively, these results show a limited capacity to discriminate parasitized from healthy larvae despite a viability cost associated with failing to avoid superparasitism.