From Parasitoids to Gall Inducers and Inquilines : Morphological Evolution in Cynipoid Wasps

Abstract: One of the large lineages of parasitic wasps, the Cynipoidea, exhibits three distinctly different life modes. Slightly more than half of the about 3000 species are parasitoids in insect larvae, whereas the remaining species are associated with plants, either as gall inducers or as inquilines (guests feeding on plant tissue in galls). The main focus of this thesis has been to identify morphological changes associated with the shifts between life modes. Particular attention was paid to structures believed to be important in gall initiation. Comparative anatomical studies of the egg, larva and venom apparatus were performed, including representatives of parasitoids, gall inducers and inquilines. Examination of gross morphology and ultrastructure revealed that the eggs of the gall inducers are larger and surrounded by a thicker shell than the parasitoid eggs. These differences may be related to the fact that the gall inducer egg contains sufficient egg yolk for the embryo during the entire egg period, whereas the parasitoid egg often absorbs nutrients through the eggshell. Furthermore, the gall inducer egg is probably more exposed to desiccation and therefore a thicker and more resistant eggshell is crucial. Comparing the terminal-instar larvae of about 30 species of parasitoids, gall inducers and inquilines, extensive morphological variation was found, particularly in the head and mouthpart features. The variation was summarized in 33 morphological and one life-history character and parsimony analyses were performed. The resulting phylogenetic estimates were largely in accordance with previous analyses of adult morphology and molecular data. The larval data point to a single origin of the inquilines, in agreement with adult morphology but in conflict with molecular data. The venom apparatus was found to be quite uniform in structure among a sample of 25 species of cynipoid species. It consists of a very short venom duct, a reservoir and a single unbranched venom gland. With few exceptions, the venom apparatus is conspicuously larger relative to the female metasoma in the gall inhabiting species than in the parasitoids. We found little evidence of anatomical structures that could facilitate chemical communication between the gall-inducer embryo and the surrounding plant tissue through the thick eggshell. On the other hand, the enormous venom glands and reservoirs, which are apparently not used for defence, suggest that the adult female plays a significant role in gall induction by injecting secretions into the host plant when laying eggs.