Linking the evolution of the phenotype to the underlying genotype is a key aim of evolutionary genetics and is crucial to our understanding of how natural selection shapes a trait. Here, we consider the genetic basis of sex allocation behavior in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis using a transcriptomics approach. Females allocate offspring sex in line with the local mate competition (LMC) theory. Female-biased sex ratios are produced when one or a few females lay eggs on a patch. As the number of females contributing offspring to a patch increases, less female-biased sex ratios are favored. We contrasted the transcriptomic responses of females as they oviposit under conditions known to influence sex allocation: foundress number (a social cue) and the state of the host (parasitized or not). We found that when females encounter other females on a patch or assess host quality with their ovipositors, the resulting changes in sex allocation is not associated with significant changes in whole-body gene expression. We also found that the gene expression changes produced by females as they facultatively allocate sex in response to a host cue and a social cue are very closely correlated. We expanded the list of candidate genes associated with oviposition behavior in Nasonia, some of which may be involved in fundamental processes underlying the ability to facultatively allocate sex, including sperm storage and utilization.
Cook, N., Trivedi, U., Pannebakker, B. A., Blaxter, M., Ritchie, M. G., Tauber, E., … Shuker, D. M. (2015). Oviposition but not sex allocation is associated with transcriptomic changes in females of the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, 5(12), 2885–2892. https://doi.org/10.1534/g3.115.021220