The predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis manipulates imprinting among offspring through egg placement

P Schausberger

A crucial question with respect to imprinting is how animals ensure that kin imprint on kin but not on non-kin. Imprinting takes place in a sensitive ontogenetic phase, usually in an early period of life or when offspring are produced, at which time the recipient imprints on the first referents met. In the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis, imprinting among immature individuals happens in the larval stage immediately after hatching. I tested the hypothesis that adult P. persimilis females manipulate offspring imprinting by influencing the likelihood of encounters among recipients and referents via egg placement and egg aggregation. I conducted two experiments, one of which addressed imprinting and cannibalism, and the other addressed egg placement and egg aggregation. The imprinting experiment suggests that larvae imprint on any conspecific individual met in a sensitive ontogenetic phase and later on treat this individual as kin, irrespective of relatedness. After molting to protonymphs, imprinted individuals preferentially cannibalized unfamiliar to familiar larvae. Irrespective of familiarity, kin were cannibalized earlier than non-kin, suggesting the involvement of self-referent phenotype matching. The egg-placement experiment provides evidence that females adjust the aggregation level of their own eggs according to the degree of relatedness to present eggs from a previously ovipositing female. Both experiments in concert suggest that egg placement is a maternal strategy influencing imprinting among immature individuals. Apart from avoiding kin cannibalism, egg placement and imprinting by larvae may have relevance to other behaviors influenced by kin recognition, such as mate choice, prey-patch choice and dispersal.

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Universität für Bodenkultur Wien
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
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Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106047 Animal ecology, 106051 Behavioural biology
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