Nasonia Parasitic Wasps Escape from Haller's Rule by Diphasic, Partially Isometric Brain-Body Size Scaling and Selective Neuropil Adaptations.
Octopamine is an important neuromodulator in the insect nervous system, influencing memory formation, sensory perception and motor control. In this study, we compare the distribution of octopamine-like immunoreactive neurons in two parasitic wasp species of the Nasonia genus, N. vitripennis and N. giraulti. These two species were previously described as differing in their learning and memory formation, which raised the question as to whether morphological differences in octopaminergic neurons underpinned these variations. Immunohistochemistry in combination with confocal laser scanning microscopy was used to reveal and compare the somata and major projections of the octopaminergic neurons in these wasps. The brains of both species showed similar staining patterns, with six different neuron clusters being identified in the brain and five different clusters in the subesophageal ganglion. Of those clusters found in the subesophageal ganglion, three contained unpaired neurons, whereas the other three consisted in paired neurons. The overall pattern of octopaminergic neurons in both species was similar, with no differences in the numbers or projections of the ventral unpaired median (VUM) neurons, which are known to be involved in memory formation in insects. In one other cluster in the brain, located in-between the optic lobe and the antennal lobe, we detected more neurons in N. vitripennis compared with N. giraulti. Combining our results with findings made previously in other Hymenopteran species, we discuss possible functions and some of the ultimate factors influencing the evolution of the octopaminergic system in the insect brain.