How Does Individual Recognition Evolve? Comparing Responses to Identity Information in Polistes Species with and Without Individual Recognition



A wide range of complex social behaviors are facilitated by the recognition of individual conspecifics. Individual recognition requires sufficient phenotypic variation to provide identity information as well as receivers that process and respond to identity information. Understanding how a complex trait such as individual recognition evolves requires that we consider how each component has evolved. Previous comparative studies have examined phenotypic variability in senders and receiver learning abilities, although little work has compared receiver responses to identity information among related species with and without individual recognition. Here, we compare responses to identity information in two Polistes paper wasps: P. fuscatus, which visually recognizes individuals, and P. metricus, which does not normally show evidence of individual recognition. Although the species differ in individual recognition, the results of this study show that receiver responses to experimentally manipulated identity information are surprisingly similar in both species. Receivers direct less aggression toward identifiable individuals than unidentifiable individuals. Therefore, the responses necessary for individual recognition may pre-date its evolution in the P. fuscatus lineage. Additionally, our data demonstrate the apparent binary differences in a complex behavior between the two species, such as individual recognition, likely involve incremental differences along a number of axes.