Navigation Links
Communal living of the insect kind
Date:11/16/2011

Durham, NC The social lives of ants, wasps and bees have long been a puzzle to scientists. How did complex insect societies colonies ruled by a queen and many workers come to be? A new model adds to discontent with old ideas.

Social insect society is divided into specialized castes that take on different roles within the nest. Most of the members of a colony the workers forego their own chance for reproduction and instead spend their lives raising offspring that aren't their own. Generations of scientists have tried to understand why. In other words, "what's in it for the workers?" said author James Hunt, who developed his model while at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC.

The question continues to spark debate. For the past 40 years, the dominant answer was based on the idea that having kids of your own isn't the only way to pass on your genes. According to a theory called Hamilton's rule, proposed in 1964 by British biologist William Hamilton, sometimes helping a relative can spread more of your genes to the next generation than having kids of your own. When the benefits to a queen outweigh the costs to her workers, the theory goes, altruism can evolve.

But there's one thing Hamilton's rule fails to consider. "Direct benefit to the worker is not part of the equation," Hunt said. According to Hunt, the evolutionary beginnings of worker behavior may be more selfish than they seem.

He bases his ideas on more than three decades of research on a family of wasps called the Vespidae, which is made up of nearly 5000 species. The majority of those species live alone, but some such as hornets, yellowjackets, and paper wasps live in complex societies with specialized castes that take on different tasks within the nest.

In paper wasps, for example, workers help build and defend the nest where they were born and feed and care for the larvae. By helping out around the nest, worker paper wasps are able to stock up on the food they need to eventually leave and lay eggs on their own, and the queen gets some babysitting help in return. "It's a situation of reciprocal exploitation," Hunt said.

Debates over how social behavior comes to be can be notoriously fierce in scientific circles. In recent years, a handful of studies have thrown Hamilton's rule into question, including a 2010 paper in the journal Nature that inspired dozens of scientists to write replies. Hunt's hypothesis says the 2010 study is basically correct, but it overplays the importance of genes.

Much of the debate stems from a failure to parse out key intermediate steps in the evolutionary transition from solitary to social, Hunt says. Paper wasps, for example, cooperate to care for young, but haven't yet evolved the distinct differences in appearance that characterize castes in the most highly social insects.

At these earliest stages, Hunt says, it doesn't matter whether workers and queens are related or not, or how many genes they share. The workers could be lingering around the nest simply because they're looking out for number one.

"The model that I'm putting forward proposes that at the very beginning of social behavior, the workers and the queens are both acting in their own self-interest," Hunt said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Robin Ann Smith
rsmith@nescent.org
919-668-4544
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. NSF funds new Center for the Physics of Living Cells at Illinois
2. TB bacterium uses its sugar coat to sweeten its chances of living in lungs
3. Living fossil tree contains genetic imprints of rain forests under climate change
4. New method provides panoramic view of protein-RNA interactions in living cells
5. Novel technique for fluorescence tomography of tumors in living animals
6. MIT nanotubes sniff out cancer agents in living cells
7. Reproductive life of male mice is increased by living with females
8. Living longer thanks to the longevity gene
9. Protein structure determined in living cells
10. 4,000-year-old coral beds among worlds oldest living things, prof says
11. Living long, living well
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Communal living of the insect kind
(Date:1/22/2016)... DUBLIN , Jan. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... announced the addition of the "Global ... report to their offering. --> ... of the "Global Biometrics Market in ... offering. --> Research and ...
(Date:1/20/2016)... Jan. 20, 2016   MedNet Solutions , an ... spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce the ... achievements are the result of the company,s laser focus ... eClinical , it,s comprehensive, easy-to-use and highly affordable ... --> Key MedNet growth achievements in 2015 include: ...
(Date:1/15/2016)... , Jan. 15, 2016 Recent publicized breaches ... to find new ways to ensure data security and ... iOS and Android that ties a ... transforming it into a hardware authorization token. Customer service ... their fingerprint on their KodeKey enabled device to verify ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/3/2016)... Ascendis Pharma A/S (Nasdaq: ASND ), ... TransCon technology to address significant unmet medical needs, today ... Leerink Partners Global Healthcare Conference Location: , Waldorf ... 2016 Time:  , 11:55am EST www.ascendispharma.com ... An audio webcast of this event will be posted ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Aerocom, a world-leading supplier of pneumatic tube ... healthcare market. , Aerocom Healthcare, LLC will be based in Denver, Colo., and ... pneumatic tube systems or expand existing systems within the U.S. and Canada. ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... ... February 03, 2016 , ... Resilinc ... which summarizes and analyzes nearly 750 unique supply chain notifications and alerts generated ... , Supply chain risk management practitioners subscribe to the EventWatch service to ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 03, 2016 , ... ... products to aid in the rapid development and ongoing quality control of molecular ... Virus outbreak is extremely high,” Dr. Gregory R. Chiklis, President and CEO of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: