Sperm Limitation Produces Male Biased Offspring Sex Ratios in the Wasp, Nasonia vitripennis (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae)

Z. G. Holditch, K. N. Ochoa, S. Greene, S. Allred, J. Baranowski, S. M. Shuster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Haplo-diploid sex determination in the parasitoid wasp, Nasonia vitripennis (Walker), allows females to adjust their brood sex ratios. Females influence whether ova are fertilized, producing diploid females, or remain unfertilized, producing haploid males. Females appear to adjust their brood sex ratios to minimize 'local mate competition,' i.e., competition among sons for mates. Because mating occurs between siblings, females may optimize mating opportunities for their offspring by producing only enough sons to inseminate daughters when ovipositing alone, and producing more sons when superparasitism is likely. Although widely accepted, this hypothesis makes no assumptions about gamete limitation in either sex. Because sperm are used to produce daughters, repeated oviposition could reduce sperm supplies, causing females to produce more sons. In contrast, if egg-limited females produce smaller broods, they might use fewer sperm, making sperm limitation less likely. To investigate whether repeated oviposition and female fertility influence gamete limitation within females, we created two treatments of six mated female wasps, which each received a series of six hosts at intervals of 24 or 48 h. All females produced at least one mixed-sex brood (63 total broods; 3,696 offspring). As expected, if females became sperm-limited, in both treatments, brood sex ratios became increasingly male-biased with increasing host number. Interhost interval did not affect brood size, total offspring number, or sex ratio, indicating females did not become egg limited. Our results support earlier studies showing sperm depletion affects sex allocation in N. vitripenniş and could limit adaptive sex ratio manipulation in these parasitoid wasps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalJournal of Insect Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • Hymenoptera
  • behavior
  • local mate competition
  • parasitoids
  • sex allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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