MRE Symonds, MA Elgar (2013) The evolution of body size, antennal size and host use in parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea): a phylogenetic comparative analysis. PLoS ONE 8: e78297 PDF
What’s it about?
We examined variation in body size and antennal size across species of parasitoid wasps, and found clear associations with the type of hosts they parasitise. Specifically, species parasitising Sternorrhyncha (aphids, whiteflies etc.) tend to be smaller, and species parasitising predatory Heteroptera (water bugs, cicadas etc) have very long antennae. We speculate as to why this may be the case.
What’s the story behind it?
This was another paper by Mark and I looking at the evolution of receptor structures in insects. Chalcidoid wasps seemed like a great group to study because they have considerable diversity in antennal size and shape, and also there is lots of good ecological information (through the Universal Chalcidoidea Database), on their distribution and biological associations. It still took two or three years work though to collate all of this together (fortunately an excellent phylogeny was published during this time). People often assume that comparative analyses are quick and dirty, but often there is a real effort involved in actually getting the data together in a form that is amenable to analysis.