Eusocial wasps of the family Vespidae are thought to have derived their social behavior from a common ancestor that had a rudimentary caste-containing social system. In support of this behavioral scenario, the leading phylogenetic hypothesis of Vespidae places the eusocial wasps (subfamilies Stenogastrinae, Polistinae, and Vespinae) as a derived monophyletic clade, thus implying a single origin of eusocial behavior. This perspective has shaped the investigation and interpretation of vespid social evolution for more than two decades. Here we report a phylogeny of Vespidae based on data from four nuclear gene fragments (18S and 28S ribosomal DNA, abdominal-A and RNA polymerase II) and representatives from all six extant subfamilies. In contrast to the current phylogenetic perspective, our results indicate two independent origins of vespid eusociality, once in the clade Polistinae+Vespinae and once in the Stenogastrinae. The stenogastrines appear as an early diverging clade distantly related to the vespines and polistines and thus evolved their distinctive form of social behavior from a different ancestor than that of Polistinae+Vespinae. These results support earlier views based on life history and behavior and have important implications for interpreting transitional stages in vespid social evolution.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Feb 27 2007|
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