London, Aug 21 (ANI): Researchers have found how to tell whether a wasp is aggressive - by looking at the markings on its head.
When female paper wasps fight it out for nest dominance, they can judge each other's fighting ability through facial patterns: those with more fragmented patterns are tougher.
According to New Scientist, Elizabeth Tibbetts of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and colleagues used paint to make weaker wasps look more fearsome, and then pitted them against a rival they had never met before.
The rivals gave the cheaters more of a pounding than they gave undisguised wasps, with more incidents of intense aggression, such as biting and mounting, perhaps in an attempt to confirm the cheaters' true abilities.
In a contrasting experiment, the team used hormones to artificially enhance the fighting prowess of weak wasps, making them stronger than their faces indicated. Here too, despite their boosted powers, their rivals refused to submit to them.
The results show that wasps with any kind of mismatch between facial pattern and behaviour get punished by their peers, says Tibbetts, which explains why they haven't evolved a strategy of lying and cheating to get to the top.
The study is published in the journal Current Biology. (ANI)