The parasitoid wasps of the genus Trichogramma use the surface curvature of their insect egg hosts to set an upper limit to the number of progeny allocated to the host, as well as the duration of their host examination. In addition, host recognition and host acceptance are in part mediated by surface curvature. In this paper, the relationships between the positions of body parts of the wasp and surface curvature are examined in order to determine a possible mechanism for curvature detection by the wasp.
Wasps of different sizes were photographed in profile while examining glass bead models of different diameters. The positions of selected body parts were analysed using a digitizer and microcomputer. The height of the wasp above the model surface did not change with surface curvature. Furthermore, the angle of the head relative to the thorax was also constant over the range of models used. Only the scapal-head angle and flagellar-head angle changed significantly with surface curvature.
A curvature detecting mechanism is proposed in which the wasp uses the scapal-head angle to measure the curvature of the surface. The body of the wasp is maintained at a preferred height and angle to the substrate, serving as a fixed platform from which curvature measurements are made. Additional features of this mechanism, as well as its correlation with morphological and behavioural findings, are discussed.