In a host-parasite relationship, finding the host is a key step influencing the parasitoid’s fitness. A large portion of a female parasitoid’s life span is spent in searching for hosts. During this foraging period, the females use various cues to help her decide where and for how long to search at different locations. Host location and host acceptance in parasitic wasps has received a lot of research attention, leading to the identification of stimuli and the characterization of behavioral responses.
Parasitic wasps use a wide range of stimuli to find their hosts. Olfactory and visual, in particular, have been well studied. However, there is growing evidence that parasitoids also use host-related vibrations to locate their hosts. Nonetheless, reported descriptions of the behavior of parasitoids as they approach their hosts are generally not sufficient to give a clear indication of the role of vibrations.
The student will conduct behavioral observations on host search behavior in parasitic wasps (parasitoids of Spodoptera exigua larvae). Experimental techniques will be used to determine the role of vibrations in host location.
Cotesia marginiventris (parasitoid) on a corn leaf,
and Spodoptera caterpillar (host)
Photo credit: Astrid T. Williner
Determine whether vibrations play a role in host searching and location in a range of parasitoid species.
- Carry out experiments/observations independently
- Analyze the collected data and write a report
- Assist in the rearing and maintenance of animal and plant cultures
Location and timeframe
This project will be carried out at the VU-Amsterdam (Animal Ecology Labs).
Starting date is flexible between the months of January and February 2017. Applications are now open.
Supervision and information
Estefania Velilla, Msc (room M-122, W&N building, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Wouter Halfwerk (room H-142, W&N building, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): email@example.com
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