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Polistes

National Science Foundation Grant DEB-0542640: “Phylogeny of the New World Polistes (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Polistinae, Polistes, Aphanilopterus) based on combined morphological, molecular and behavioral evidence,” 2006-2010; Co-PI with Kurt Pickett and Ward Wheeler

This project is the study of a behaviorally important wasps, the genus Polistes, or common paper wasps. Within Polistes, the New World species form a lineage of 119 species, many of which have been the basis for the empirical and theoretical study of social behavior. Because many of these theories posit the sequence of behavioral evolution through time, fully understanding the evolution of social behavior in paper wasps requires the evolutionary tree of the species. Based on molecular, anatomical and behavioral evidence, we have produced the most data-rich phylogenetic analysis of Polistes yet undertaken. We used the results to test an important hypothesis regarding the origin of social behavior: the haplodiploidy hypothesis of W. D. Hamilton. We have shown that haplodiploidy did not play an important role in the early evolution of Polistes.

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