Data for experiment 2 from Rapid juvenile hormone downregulation in subordinate wasp queens facilitates stable cooperation

In many cooperatively breeding animals, subordinate group members have lower reproductive capacity than dominant group members. Theory suggests subordinates may downregulate their reproductive capacity because dominants punish subordinates who maintain high fertility. However, there is little direct experimental evidence that dominants cause physiological suppression in subordinates. Here, we experimentally test how social interactions influence subordinate reproductive hormones in <i>Polistes dominula</i> paper wasps. <i>P. dominula</i> queens commonly found nests in cooperative groups where the dominant queen is more fertile than the subordinate queen. In this study, we randomly assigned wasps to cooperative groups, assessed dominance behaviour during group formation, then measured levels of juvenile hormone (JH), a hormone that mediates <i>Polistes</i> fertility. Within three hours, lowest ranking subordinates had less JH than dominants or solitary controls, indicating that group formation caused rapid JH reduction in low-ranking subordinates. In a second experiment, we measured the behavioural consequences of experimentally increasing subordinate JH. Subordinates with high JH-titres received significantly more aggression than control subordinates or subordinates from groups where the dominant's JH was increased. These results suggest that dominants aggressively punished subordinates who attempted to maintain high fertility. Low-ranked subordinates may rapidly downregulate reproductive capacity to reduce costly social interactions with dominants. Rapid modulation of subordinate reproductive physiology may be an important adaptation to facilitate the formation of stable, cooperative groups.