Hatching care has been reported for many taxonomic groups, from invertebrates to vertebrates. The sophisticated care that occurs around hatching time is expected to have an adaptive function supporting the feeble young. However, details of the characteristics of the adaptive function of hatching care remain unclear. This study investigated the hatching care of the subsocial shield bug, Parastrachia japonensis (Heteroptera: Parastrachiidae) to verify its function. Results show that the P. japonensis mothers vibrated the egg mass intermittently while maintaining an egg-guarding posture. Then embryos started to emerge from their shells synchronously. Unlike such behaviors of closely related species, this vibrating behavior was faint, but lasted more than 6 h. To investigate the effect of this behavior on hatching synchrony and hatching success, we observed the hatching pattern and the hatching rate in control, mother-removed, and two artificial vibration groups. Control broods experienced continuous guarding from the mother. Intermittent artificial vibration broods were exposed to vibrations that matched the temporal pattern of maternal vibration produced by a motor. They showed synchronous hatching patterns and high hatching rates. However, for mother-removed broods, which were isolated from the mother, and when we provided continuous artificial vibration that did not match the temporal pattern of the maternal vibration, embryo hatching was not only asynchronous: some embryos failed to emerge from their shells. These results lead us to infer that hatching care in P. japonensis has two functions: hatching regulation and hatching assistance. Nevertheless, several points of observational and circumstantial evidence clearly contraindicate hatching assistance. A reduction in the hatching rate might result from dependence on maternal hatching care as a strong cue in P. japonensis. We conclude that the hatching care of P. japonensis regulates the hatching pattern and serves as an important cue to induce embryo hatching.
Various animals produce inviable eggs or egg-like structures called trophic eggs, which are presumed to be an extended maternal investment for the offspring. However, there is little knowledge about the ecological or physiological constraints associated with their evolutionary origin. Trophic eggs of the seminivorous subsocial burrower bug (Canthophorus niveimarginatus) have some unique characteristics. Trophic eggs are obligate for nymphal survival, and first-instar nymphs die without them. To identify the cause of nymphal death, we hypothesized that first-instar nymphs starve to death because they cannot feed on anything but trophic eggs. Although first-instar nymphs fed on artificially exposed endosperm did survive, nymphs that were provided with intact seed were not able to penetrate the seed vessel and starved to death. Another hypothesis that trophic eggs play a role in transferring the midgut symbiont, essential for survival in heteropteran bugs, from mother to offspring was rejected because almost all nymphs had retained the symbiont without feeding on trophic eggs. These results suggest that poor feeding capacity of the offspring is the cause of nymphal death, and the important constraint that promotes the evolution of the curious trophic egg system in C. niveimarginatus.
In recent years, three terrestrial bugs, Adomerus triguttulus and Sehirus cinctus (Cydnidae) and the closely related Parastrachia japonensis (Parastrachiidae), have been the focus of several fascinating studies because of the remarkable, extensive parental care they were found to display. This care includes egg and nymph guarding, production of trophic eggs, unfertilized, low cost eggs that are used as food by newly hatched nymphs, and progressive provisioning of the host seed. In this study, we have investigated yet a third related Asian cydnid, Canthophorus niveimarginatus, with regard to the possible occurrence of some or all of these complex traits in order to assess how widespread these maternal investment patterns are in this group of insects and to better understand the implications of their manifestations from an evolutionary context. Manipulative experiments were carried out in the lab to determine whether females provision nests. Observational and egg removal studies were carried out to determine whether trophic eggs are produced, and, if they are, their possible impact on nymphal success. The findings revealed that C. niveimarginatus does, in fact, progressively provision young, and this species also displays all of the other behaviors associated with extended parental care in subsocial insects. Moreover, unlike the other two related species, which place trophic eggs on the surface of the original egg mass, C. niveimarginatus produces both pre- and post-hatch trophic eggs. Nymphs deprived of access to post-hatch trophic eggs had significantly lower body weight and survival rate than those that fed on them. To our knowledge, this is the first time the production of both pre- and post-hatch trophic eggs has been demonstrated in insects outside the Hymenoptera. In this paper, we qualitatively and quantitatively demonstrate the provisioning behavior and patterns of trophic egg production in C. niveimarginatus. When and how trophic eggs are produced and delivered to young should have important correlations with the ecological and life history constraints under which a species has evolved. Thus, we also discuss the possible ecological and life history factors that favor the evolution of post-hatch trophic eggs.
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