This was one of the main findings of two researchers from the Center for Ecological Sciences (CES) of the Indian Institute of Science, who studied how microscopic worms called nematodes that live in fig trees wander on fig wasps so that ‘they can move with one. tree to another

When using public transport, we often weigh the merits of hopping on a crowded train or bus to be on time for a meeting, or waiting for an empty bus to stop so we can travel comfortably but arrive. a little later than expected. There are tradeoffs to be made at every step, and the decisions we make affect the outcome. Tiny organizations also seem capable of engaging in complex decision-making processes that belies their size.

This was one of the main findings of two researchers at the Center for Ecological Sciences (CES) of the Indian Institute of Science, who studied how microscopic worms called nematodes that live in fig trees wander on fig wasps so that ‘they can move with one. tree to another.

Third factor

A fig tree depends on a fig wasp for pollination, and in return the wasp has a place to lay its eggs and reproduce. This mutual association dates back millions of years, but there is a third factor in this relationship: hitchhiking nematodes. The young nematodes enter the abdomen of the wasp which they use as a vehicle.

But it’s not as easy as jumping on the first fig wasp they come across. Nematodes need to assess whether the pollinating wasp they choose to hike on is the right vehicle. Is it too crowded with other organizations? Are the organisms of the same species? Does this affect the result?

Find a companion

The researchers found that nematodes generally tend to choose wasps that have less crowded guts and are already carriers of other worms of their own species. “Traveling with members of their own species can increase their chances of finding a mate when they reach their destination,” cSII said. in a press release.

The results were published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. “The main take-home message is that even very small organisms such as nematodes have complex decision-making processes,” said Renee Borges, professor at CES and lead author of the article in the release. “This type of decision-making is exactly what we humans can do when we choose which mode of transportation we can use. We wouldn’t want to get on a crowded bus unless there is no other bus available.

CES research associate Satyajeet Gupta is the study’s first author.

Chemical indices

Nematodes, too, tend to select wasps with fewer passengers. “They verify this using chemical signals by sniffing the volatiles that wasps emit by standing on their tails and shaking their heads. When the researchers offered the worms a choice between compounds emitted by a wasp carrying fewer or more passengers, the worms chose the first, ”the statement said.

Previous study

In an earlier study where researchers conducted controlled experiments, they found that if there were too many worms on board a wasp, they turn into parasites and affect not only the wasp but also the tree that it is. they reach “.

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