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Food or host: do physiological state and flower type affect foraging decisions of parasitoids?

Abstract : Abstract Within the optimal foraging theory framework, parasitoids constitute ideal models to elucidate combined physiological and environmental determinism of foraging behavior between current and future fitness gains. Parasitoid females need hosts to lay eggs for their reproduction (immediate gain), but also sugar food resources for their survival (future gain). According to theoretical models and previous empirical studies, fed females should favor host foraging, whereas females with lower energetic reserves should search for food. Surprisingly, the influence of mating status and food quality has not been considered, whereas they may both constitute major factors altering animals’ choices between reproducing and feeding. We tested decision-making on Aphidius rhopalosiphi parasitoid females with different life expectancy levels (as set by recent feeding history) and mating status, using two flower species with contrasted attractiveness and nectar suitability. Interestingly, all fed and unfed females with different expected lifetime levels favored reproduction over nutrition since they are mated. This could be explained by their reproductive status that appeared to be the main determinant of their foraging decisions. For a given expected lifetime, mated females favored more reproduction whereas unmated ones favored food. Physiological status of females (mating and lifetime expectancy) did not interact with flower species on their foraging decisions nor did it modify their preferences, as they always favored the most attractive flower, which does not have the best nectar. These results highlight the need for more empirical studies to evaluate the interactions between different intrinsic factors and to carefully consider the mating status in model assumptions, as it influences foraging behavior between immediate and future fitness gains. Significance statement Parasitic wasps need hosts to lay eggs for their reproduction (immediate fitness gain) and sugar resources for their survival (future fitness gain). Empirical studies and related theoretical models about foraging decisions of parasitic wasps between current and future gains included influences of energetic and resource availability constrains. We examined assumptions used by those mathematical models by empirically testing two new factors, food qualities provided by two nectar provisioning flower species with contrasted functional traits, which had surprisingly no impact on decision-making, and mating status which we showed to play a decisive role on decision-making between food or host resources. These factors should henceforth be considered in model assumptions or in models themselves to realize accurate predictions and to provide a better understanding of foraging decisions made by female parasitic wasps.
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Maxime Damien, Lena Barascou, Aurélien Ridel, Joan van Baaren, Cécile Le Lann. Food or host: do physiological state and flower type affect foraging decisions of parasitoids?. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Springer Verlag, 2019, 73 (11), pp.156. ⟨10.1007/s00265-019-2758-9⟩. ⟨hal-02397723⟩

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