What do you get if you fake your fighting skills, little wasp? A walloping, that’s what. A recent study says that Polistes dominulus, commonly known as paper wasps, punish individuals who misrepresent their combat abilities. Yes, you could call those fakers paper gangsters.
Paper wasps show their strength all over their faces, New Scientist reports: Fragmented facial markings are a warning that the fight won’t be easy. Elizabeth Tibbetts and Amanda Izzo wanted to determine why wasps don’t cheat–why weaklings don’t also opt for a don’t-mess-with-me facial pattern.
They altered submissive wasps’ faces to appear more dominant and then sent them into the ring for a confrontation. Though at first the truly stronger wasp submitted, it later attacked with more vigor. The faker got a harsher smackdown than did weak wasps that showed their true colors.
In a different twist, the researchers made some weak wasps strong by giving them hormones, but left the wasps’ faces unaltered. The opponent wasps refused to yield, and continued to fight the enhanced weak-faces. Wasps with no facial alterations, the scientists say, entered into stable relationships, perhaps hinting at why it doesn’t pay to pretend.
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