Division of Labor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Division of labor is one of the key attributes of social organization and is considered an underlying reason for the ecological success of the eusocial insects. Defined as occurring when different individuals within a social group specialize in different tasks, division of labor is often divided into two general categories: reproductive division of labor or the partitioning of a social group into reproductives and sterile workers, and division of labor for all other tasks involved in colony growth and maintenance. In eusocial colonies, tasks associated with colony function are generally divided among workers so that individuals specialize, but a division of labor for nonreproductive tasks also occurs in a broad range of social groups, including communal systems of unrelated individuals, and can even be produced as a self-organizing phenomenon in artificial groups of normally solitary insects. The mechanisms generating division of labor range from social interactions that generate variation in task performance via self-organization to developmental differences among workers in morphology and physiology, including genetically based differences in task preference. Although the mechanisms vary, a global pattern of task differentiation emerges in all highly social insect groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Animal Behavior
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)9780080453378
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Age polyethism
  • Division of labor
  • Eusociality
  • Foraging for work
  • Genetic task specialization
  • Morphological caste
  • Reproductive caste
  • Response threshold model
  • Self-organization
  • Task specialization
  • Worker castes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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