Gregariousness does not vary with geography, developmental stage, or group relatedness in feeding redheaded pine sawfly larvae

John W. Terbot, Ryan L. Gaynor, Catherine R. Linnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aggregations are widespread across the animal kingdom, yet the underlying proximate and ultimate causes are still largely unknown. An ideal system to investigate this simple, social behavior is the pine sawfly genus Neodiprion, which is experimentally tractable and exhibits interspecific variation in larval gregariousness. To assess intraspecific variation in this trait, we characterized aggregative tendency within a single widespread species, the redheaded pine sawfly (N. lecontei). To do so, we developed a quantitative assay in which we measured interindividual distances over a 90-min video. This assay revealed minimal behavioral differences: (1) between early-feeding and late-feeding larval instars, (2) among larvae derived from different latitudes, and (3) between groups composed of kin and those composed of nonkin. Together, these results suggest that, during the larval feeding period, the benefits individuals derive from aggregating outweigh the costs and that this cost-to-benefit ratio does not vary dramatically across space (geography) or ontogeny (developmental stage). In contrast to the feeding larvae, our assay revealed a striking reduction in gregariousness following the final larval molt in N. lecontei. We also found some intriguing interspecific variation: While N. lecontei and N. maurus feeding larvae exhibit significant aggregative tendencies, feeding N. compar larvae do not aggregate at all. These results set the stage for future work investigating the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying developmental and interspecific variation in larval gregariousness across Neodiprion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3689-3702
Number of pages14
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Diprionidae
  • behavioral assay
  • behavioral development
  • feeding aggregations
  • gregariousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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