Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 205, Issue 6, pp 911–916 | Cite as

Brain structure differences between solitary and social wasp species are independent of body size allometry

  • Sean O’DonnellEmail author
  • Susan Bulova
  • Sara DeLeon
  • Meghan Barrett
  • Katherine Fiocca
Original Paper


Evolutionary transitions in social behavior are often associated with changes in species’ brain architecture. A recent comparative analysis showed that the structure of brains of wasps in the family Vespidae differed between solitary and social species: the mushroom bodies, a major integrative brain region, were larger relative to brain size in the solitary species. However, the earlier study did not account for body size effects, and species’ relative mushroom body size increases with body size in social Vespidae. Here we extend the previous analysis by measuring the effects of body size variation on brain structure differences between social and solitary vespid wasps. We asked whether total brain volume was greater relative to body size in the solitary species, and whether relative mushroom body size was greater in solitary species, after accounting for body size effects. Both total brain volume and relative mushroom body volume were significantly greater in the solitary species after accounting for body size differences. Therefore, body size allometry did not explain the solitary versus social species differences in brain structure. The evolutionary transition from solitary to social behavior in Vespidae was accompanied by decreases in total brain size and in relative mushroom body size.


Eusociality Mushroom bodies Neuroecology Paper wasps Social brain hypothesis 



Research was funded by NSF Grant 1209072, a Wistar Morris grant, and the College of Arts and Sciences of Drexel University (to S. O’D.).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

359_2019_1374_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biodiversity Earth and Environmental ScienceDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.BuchaGermany

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