• age effects;
  • division of labor;
  • Kenyon cells;
  • mushroom bodies;
  • neural plasticity


Primitively eusocial paper wasps exhibit considerable plasticity in their division of labor. Dominance interactions among nest mates play a strong role in determining the task performance patterns of adult females. We asked whether dominance status and task performance differences were associated with the development of subregions of the mushroom bodies (MB) of female Mischocyttarus mastigophorus queens and workers. We found that the MB calycal neuropils were better developed (relative to the Kenyon cell body layer) in the dominant females that spent more time on the nest. Increased MB calyx development was more strongly associated with social dominance than with high rates of foraging. The MB of queens resembled those of dominant workers. The results suggest that social interactions are particularly relevant to M. mastigophorus females' cognition. By examining the MB of newly emerged females, we also found evidence for significant age-related changes in MB structure. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 67: 39–46, 2007