Mar 17, 2008

Facial Markings

Competition is fierce in the animal world. This is no less true among wasps. The problem, however, is that if every wasp had to fight every other wasp for dominance, then all you would end up with is an injured population of champions and opportunists.

Photo source: LiveScience.com
But Mother Nature has found a way to cut back on all the fighting. Elizabeth Tibbetts, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, has discovered that paper wasps (Polistes dominulus) have facial markings that are used as signals to other wasps. The larger and better fed a wasp is, the more black markings the wasp has on its face. These markings function as warning signals to other wasps, telling them that they might not want to tangle with the black-faced insect facing them.

I recommend reading the whole LiveScience article. Prepared to be marveled by the complexity of nature.

This discovery has led me to consider my own facial markings during my teenage years. I now understand why my acne warded off females for all those lonely years.

Thanks for the link, Ida.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love that they seem to have little miniature jack o'lantern/alien faces right in the center of their faces--in the yellow bit, where the "nose" would be.

Jade said...

Now you guys know why I tattooed my face. It's means, "I'm tougher than you. Don't even try it!" ;)

Kit said...

Actually... ignoring the fact that wasps are a bunch of jerks, and they have mandibiles (which I didn't know), the yellow and black designs on most of them is really cool. However... the pinchy parts destroy the coolness.

Shay said...

so...i wonder if anyone's ever come across a completely black wasp. lol, it'd probably be like the mob boss of the bug world. :)

Anonymous said...

It's the brady bunch of the bug world...

cow_2001 said...

shay, I've seen tiny black parasitoid wasps. They're not anyone's boss except for the hapless larva they eat from inside out.

Jack Ruttan said...

No, wasps are the skinheads of the insect world. Right down to the face tats.

Jade said...

jack ruttan- I take extreme offense to being called a Skin Head. That's a bit out of line.