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Uncovering head gland diversity in neotropical Polistinae wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae): Comparative analysis and description of new glands

Andrea C. Penagos-Arévalo, Johan Billen, Carlos E. Sarmiento
Arthropod structure & development 2015 v.44 no.5 pp. 415-425
Vespidae, animals, evolution, exoskeleton, head, hypopharyngeal glands, scanning electron microscopy, social insects, tropics
Exocrine glands are involved in several wasp colony activities; however, the number of known glands in the Vespidae is rather low when compared to other social insect groups. The aim of this study is to survey the head of Neotropical social wasps and to provide a detailed comparative study of the glands found in the Polistinae. A total of 33 species distributed over 13 genera were studied with serial histological sections of the head, excluding the labiomaxillary complex. Additionally, the exoskeleton was explored using scanning electron microscopy looking for associated modifications. A total of eleven exocrine glands were observed, five are structures recorded for the first time for the Hymenoptera, three are new records for the Polistinae and three are previously known organs. The glands studied are: ocellar gland I, ocellar gland II, periocular gland, subantennal gland, hypopharyngeal gland, clypeal gland, posterobasal genal gland, ectal mandibular gland, mesal mandibular gland, intramandibular gland I, and intramandibular gland II. The widespread distribution of most of these glands suggests an origin prior to the evolution of the Polistinae. Our results highlight the importance of detailed morphological studies to unveil the significance of chemical communication in one of the most characteristic groups of social animals.