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A study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä shows that ecological context affects the frequency of cooperators and freeloaders in groups of pine sawflies.
Pine sawfly larvae live in groups and put up a common defence against predators. When threatened, the larvae assume a defensive posture and regurgitate a fluid that repels predators.
Study - Pay - Price - Defence - Participation
The study shows that the larvae pay a price for this defence. Repeated participation in the common defence increases mortality of the larvae and weakens their ability to defend against predators and parasites in further encounters with them.
"The research sheds light on one of the key questions in evolutionary biology about why and when organisms cooperate with other members of their species, and when they cheat them," says corresponding author Carita Lindstedt.
Study - Quality - Frequency - Defence - Impact
The study illustrates that diet quality and the frequency of defence both have an impact on how costly the defence is for pine sawfly larvae. Therefore, these conditions and their interaction also determine how often larvae participate in the common defence.
When larvae that were fed a diet of a certain quality defended repeatedly, they grew slower and their ability to defend against pathogens weakened....
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